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Criminal Punishment, Labor Market Outcomes, and Economic Inequality: Devah Pager's Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration

Authors


Brett C. Burkhardt is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he conducts dissertation research on the history of prison privatization in the United States. He received helpful feedback on this essay from Richard Aviles, Jay Burlingham, Dana Garbarski, Pamela Oliver, Karl Shoemaker, Adam Slez, and Kia Sorensen. Contact the author at bburkhar@ssc.wisc.edu.

Abstract

A growing empirical literature examines the role of incarceration in labor market outcomes and economic inequality more broadly. Devah Pager's book, Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration (2007), offers compelling evidence that employment opportunities for former prisoners—especially black former prisoners—are bleak. I review Pager's methods and findings, place them in the context of previous work, and discuss the relation of race to a criminal record. I then explore several lines of related research that investigate the increasing reach of criminal punishment into various social realms. One goal of this essay is to draw research on economic inequality into the law and society literature.

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