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Liminal Men: Incarceration and Family Instability

  • Kristin Turney

    (University of California, Irvine)

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    Incarceration, now a rite of passage for many economically disadvantaged minority men involving an immediate and involuntary removal from families, places these marginal men in a liminal state where they are simultaneously members of families and isolated from families. Despite a burgeoning literature documenting the collateral consequences of incarceration for family life, as well as evidence that the deleterious effects of incarceration for maternal and child wellbeing stem from resultant family instability, much less is known about the direct link between incarceration and family instability. I consider this association with data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal survey uniquely positioned to understand the consequences of incarceration for family life. Results show that paternal incarceration is associated with relatively immediate relationship dissolution among couples in both marital and non-marital romantic partnerships when their child is born. But incarceration is inconsequential for couples that survive this initial period. The association between paternal incarceration and dissolution is not explained by post-incarceration changes in relationship quality, economic wellbeing, or physical and mental health, suggesting the liminality accompanying confinement is directly responsible for the deleterious consequences. Taken together, these findings document the consequences of liminality, link the literature on the collateral consequences of mass incarceration with the literature on demographic changes in family life, and have important implications for the transmission of inequality across generations.

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    Paper provided by Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing. in its series Working Papers with number 1478.

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    Date of creation: Jul 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:pri:crcwel:wp13-12-ff
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    1. Daniel Lichter & Zhenchao Qian & Leanna Mellott, 2006. "Marriage or dissolution? Union transitions among poor cohabiting women," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(2), pages 223-240, May.
    2. Sara Mclanahan, 2004. "Diverging destinies: How children are faring under the second demographic transition," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(4), pages 607-627, November.
    3. Sascha O. Becker & Marco Caliendo, 2007. "mhbounds - Sensitivity Analysis for Average Treatment Effects," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 659, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    4. Devah Pager, 2003. "The mark of a criminal record," Natural Field Experiments 00319, The Field Experiments Website.
    5. Ellwood, David T. & Jencks, Christopher, 2004. "The Spread of Single-Parent Families in the United States since 1960," Working Paper Series rwp04-008, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
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