Place Meets Race: Racial and Ethnic Heterogeneity in the Association Between Childhood Neighborhood Disadvantage and Adult Incarceration

Steven Alvarado , Cornell University

This paper explores how race and neighborhoods explain incarceration in tandem. I use 26 years of panel data that span the prison boom in the U.S. from two cohorts of the NLSY (1979 and Children and Young Adults) to study whether the association between childhood neighborhood disadvantage and adult incarceration varies by race. Stratified and full factorial sibling fixed effects interaction models suggest that neighborhood disadvantage early in life increases the odds of incarceration in adulthood for whites and Latinos, but not for blacks, net of observed and unobserved adjustments. Blacks from disadvantaged socioeconomic neighborhood contexts appear equally likely to be incarcerated as blacks from more advantaged neighborhoods. Rather than neighborhood context, discrimination in policing, surveillance, and other prejudicial policies across the life-course are likely to have greater impact on incarceration for blacks in the U.S. compared to the socioeconomic conditions of where they grew up.

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 Presented in Session 236. Neighborhood Effects and Inequality