Panel Paper: Housing Instability Following Incarceration and Conviction

Friday, November 3, 2017
Stetson D (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Brielle Bryan, Harvard University

Prior research suggests that incarceration leads to increased housing instability, especially greater residential mobility, following release. Researchers have justified this line of inquiry by pointing out that both public housing authorities and private landlords can, and likely do, discriminate based on prior incarceration history; but the same is true for individuals with criminal records who have not been incarcerated, particularly those with felony convictions. Moreover, because the physical removal from one’s community entailed by incarceration affects individuals in so many ways (e.g., weakened social ties, employment disruption, mental and physical effects of confinement), it is unclear whether the post-incarceration housing instability observed in prior research results from the stigma and discrimination that accompany the “mark of a criminal record” or from the incarceration and physical removal itself. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 and a variety of modeling strategies, including sibling fixed effects and gender interactions with criminal justice history, this paper explores whether felony conviction without incarceration leads to housing instability patterns similar to those experienced by former inmates. Results indicate that, like formerly incarcerated individuals, never incarcerated individuals with felony convictions experience an elevated risk of housing instability and residential mobility, and these effects are amplified for women. As most previous research on the collateral consequences of the criminal justice system has focused on incarceration, this paper makes an important contribution to the literature by highlighting how lesser criminal justice system involvement, not just incarceration, can introduce instability into the lives of the 12 million Americans with felony records who have never served a prison sentence. At the same time, these findings also help to illuminate the mechanisms behind post-incarceration housing instability observed previously by tabling the myriad intermediary effects of incarceration itself and instead highlighting the potential role of housing market discrimination.