Choice or Constraint? Mass Incarceration and Fertility Outcomes among American Men

Bryan L. Sykes, University of Washington
Becky Pettit, University of Washington

The rapid growth of the prison system over the last three decades represents a critical institutional intervention in the lives of U.S. families, which may have far-reaching and unintended consequences for demographic processes. In this paper, we investigate how exposure to the criminal justice system affects micro fertility decisions and aggregate fertility patterns. We propose to examine fertility choice and constraint within a counterfactual framework to assess whether and to what extent institutionalization has restricted and lowered the parity of men, and we theorize about how exogenous institutional factors (the penal system) have altered partnership selection in such a way that accounts for observed changes in non-marital, multi-partnered and teenage fertility. Our findings may help to explain growing disparities in fertility patterns by race and class.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 57: Contextual Influences on Fertility