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A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of the Impact of Public Assistance on Prisoner Recidivism Journal of Quantitative Criminology

NCJ Number
Journal of Quantitative Criminology Volume: 34 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2018 Pages: 741-773
Jeremy. Luallen; Jared Edgerton; Deirdre Rabideau
Date Published
September 2018
33 pages
This study is the first empirical examination of the causal relationship between recidivism and welfare and food stamp benefits
The Welfare Act of 1996 banned welfare and food stamp eligibility for felony drug offenders and gave states the ability to modify their use of the law. Today, many states are revisiting their use of this ban, searching for ways to decrease the size of their prison populations; however, there are no empirical assessments of how this ban has affected prison populations and recidivism among drug offenders. Moreover, there have been no causal investigations to demonstrate whether welfare or food stamp benefits impact recidivism. The study used a survival-based estimation in determining the impact of benefits on the recidivism of drug-offending populations, using data from the National Corrections Reporting Program. This impact was modeled by using a difference-in-difference estimator within a regression discontinuity framework. The study did not find any evidence that drug offending populations as a group were adversely or positively impacted by the ban overall. Results apply to both male and female populations and are robust to several sensitivity tests. Results also suggest the possibility that impacts significantly varied over time-at-risk, despite a zero net effect. Thus, the study indicates that the initial passage of the drug felony ban had no measurable large-scale impacts on recidivism among male or female drug offenders. It concludes that the state initiatives to remove or modify the ban, regardless of whether they improve lives of individual offenders, will likely have no appreciable impact on prison systems. (publisher abstract modified)