Panel Paper: Identification of the Link Between FOOD Security and Incarceration

Thursday, November 6, 2014 : 1:40 PM
Acoma (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Robynn Cox, Spelman College
Previous work has found that parental incarceration has a variety of impacts on the incarcerated individual and their families including employment and income, educational outcomes of children, and food security, as summarized in Cox and Wallace (2012).  The previous literature does not identify a causal impact of incarceration on food security nor does it successfully identify the mechanisms through which incarceration affects food security.  From a policy perspective, identification of a causal link is important to begin to understand the breadth of impacts of incarceration on families.  In this paper we utilize micro-level data from the Fragile Families and Child Well Being Study (FFCWS) to provide evidence of a causal impact of incarceration on food security and we are also able to begin to shed light on the potential magnitude of difficult to observe mechanisms through which incarceration of a parent affects food security of the household.  This is an important dynamic to understand because the prevalence of incarceration in the U.S. is high and the associated externalities can have substantial impacts on the families that may reach well beyond traditional costs associated with incarceration. 

The complicated relationship between food security and incarceration leads us to explore a variety of program evaluation techniques to isolate the causal impact of incarceration on food security.  Our results are robust to various specifications and are suggestive of a positive causal impact of incarceration on food security among at risk households with children.

Full Paper: