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Moving North and into jail? The great migration and black incarceration

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  • Eriksson, Katherine

Abstract

Black incarceration rates in the U.S. grew relative to white incarceration rates throughout the first half of the 20th century despite substantial convergence in education levels and wages between the two groups. This paper considers the First Great Migration prior to 1940 as a factor which increased black male incarceration rates. I construct an individual-level dataset of all Southern-born male prisoners and non-prisoners in the 1940 US Census; both groups are matched to their childhood household in the 1920 Census in order to control for across-household selection using household fixed effects. I estimate that migrating to the North roughly doubled an individual's chance of being incarcerated, increasing the probability of incarceration by 2 percentage points. I estimate that the Great Migration was responsible for about 6% of the sharp increase in black incarceration rates between 1920 and 1940.

Suggested Citation

  • Eriksson, Katherine, 2019. "Moving North and into jail? The great migration and black incarceration," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 526-538.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:159:y:2019:i:c:p:526-538
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2018.04.024
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    Keywords

    Incarceration; Race; Economic history; Migration;

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