Testing Determinants of State Spending on Social Control

Trent Steidley, University of Denver
David M. Ramey , Pennsylvania State University

An implicit function of the state is to produce social control. Modern democracies like the U.S. first used social welfare policies to produce social control during times of precarious employment. Meanwhile, the criminal justice system sought to rehabilitate criminals and generally improve society. At the end of the 20th century, a crisis of confidence in the state’s ability to produce social control occurred. As politicians framed social problems as criminal acts, the state hardened both welfare and criminal justice policies. Using data on state and local spending in the U.S., we answer several questions regarding state social control via welfare and criminal justice policies. First, has state and county spending on social welfare and criminal justice changed before and after passage of the federal crime bill and welfare reform? Second, what are the determinants of state “social control” efforts and are they uniform for criminal justice and welfare spending?

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality