Incarceration, Recidivism, and Employment

Bhuller, Manudeep, Dahl, Gordon Boyack, Løken, Katrine Vellesen & Mogstad, Magne

Front page of journal Journal of Political Economy

Photo: University of Chicago Press

Published in:

Journal of Political Economy, April 2020

DOI: 10.1086/705330


Using a random judge design and panel data from Norway, we estimate that imprisonment discourages further criminal behavior, with reoffense probabilities falling by 29 percentage points and criminal charges dropping by 11 over a 5-year period. Ordinary least squares mistakenly reaches the opposite conclusion. The decline is driven by individuals not working prior to incarceration; these individuals increase participation in employment programs and raise their future employment and earnings. Previously employed individuals experience lasting negative employment effects. These findings demonstrate that time spent in prison with a focus on rehabilitation can be preventive for a large segment of the criminal population.

Published June 27, 2020 4:15 PM - Last modified Nov. 10, 2020 1:46 PM