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Incarcerated Mothers' Labor Market Outcomes

NCJ Number
The Prison Journal Volume: 97 Issue: 1 Dated: December 2016
Haeil. Jung; Richard J. LaLonde
Date Published
December 2016
25 pages
This study examined how motherhood and foster care of their children influenced incarcerated women's transitions into the labor market after their release, using fixed-effects models to examine the relative progress of incarcerated mothers in earnings and employment after incarceration, controlling for time-constant individual characteristics.
The study determined that most incarcerated women are mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds. They are also more likely to have children in foster care than women who have not been incarcerated. Their children being in foster care was determined not to be due to the mother's incarceration, but rather to traumatic events in the mothers' lives that contributed to both their incarceration and their children being in foster care. Incarcerated mothers' earnings and employment were lower than incarcerated women without children during the 2 years before incarceration. The difference in pre-incarceration employment rates was considerable and statistically significant; however, incarcerated mothers made impressive progress in quarterly employment during the second and third years after their release. Most of this progress was with mothers whose children started foster care before their mother's incarceration and remained in foster care during their mothers' incarceration. The progress in employment stability was most evident among mothers without drug addiction. Although the study does not definitively answer why released mothers with children in foster care have better progress in post-incarceration employment compared with released childless women, the researchers suggest that having a child in foster care while in prison may provide the released mothers with an incentive to work in steady wage and salaried jobs after release from prison so they can have their children back from foster care. Incarcerated mothers were also more likely than childless incarcerated women to participate in social programs within the prison, such as work, prerelease, and education. 5 tables, 2 figures, and 21 references