Parental Incarceration and School-Level Contextual Effects: An Analysis of the Academic Achievement Gap and the Stigma Hypothesis
Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 10:35 AM
Johnson I (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Over the past 40 years parental incarceration has become an increasingly common event in the lives of American children. Much of the existing literature on parental incarceration has given us only a weak sense of the mechanisms by which parental incarceration affect children’s outcomes and has neglected the moderating role of context. This paper employs both a mechanistic and contextual focus to examine the extent to which the effect of parental incarceration on youth outcomes is moderated by stigma within the school context. Using panel data from over 15,000 young adult respondents in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), this paper accounts for school-level differences in the prevalence of parental incarceration to assess whether and how context moderates the relationship between parental incarceration and youth academic and behavioral outcomes, including educational achievement, suspension and expulsion. I use hierarchical linear models with random intercepts and random slopes to allow for the relationship between parental incarceration and in-school academic and behavioral outcomes to vary depending upon school characteristics like prevalence of parental incarceration, which I consider a proxy for the level of stigma surrounding parental incarceration within a particular school. I find little support for the hypothesis that stigma moderates the relationship between parental incarceration and adolescent outcomes. Instead, the results suggest that attending a school in which parental incarceration is more prevalent may actually exacerbate the negative effects of parental incarceration for adolescents.