Unintended Consequences of Paternal Incarceration: Effects on Young Children’s School Readiness with Possible Implications for the Persistence of the Black-White Achievement Gap

Anna R. Haskins, University of Wisconsin at Madison

This project links research on disparities in educational achievement with research on the stratification consequences of mass incarceration of African American men. Using the Fragile Families and Child-Wellbeing Study and its rich paternal incarceration data, I ask whether there are harmful effects of having an imprisoned father on young children’s school readiness, and whether this effect persists after multivariate controls. I construct a school readiness scale from a variety of mother-reported socio-emotional and attention-related behaviors. Propensity score matching is used to control for observed characteristics of fathers that are predictive of incarceration, thus gaining a more powerful test of the effect of incarceration on school readiness. Additionally, I analyze racial differences to determine whether disparities in incarceration rates between blacks and whites can begin to account for the persistence of a portion of the black-white test score gap present in later academic achievement outcomes.

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Presented in Session 148: Criminal Justice System Issues for Children and Youth