Imprisonment and Infant Mortality

Christopher Wildeman, University of Michigan

This article extends research on the consequences of mass imprisonment by considering effects of imprisonment on infant mortality. Using state-level data from 1990 to 2003 and a series of fixed effects models with an AR(1) adjustment, this article finds evidence that state-level imprisonment rates (male, female and total) are positively associated with state-level infant mortality rates. Results suggest that had the imprisonment rate remained at the 1990 level, the 2003 infant mortality rate would have been 5% lower. The final stage of the analysis uses Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System data to consider effects of parental incarceration on infant mortality at the individual level. Results suggest that parental incarceration increases infant mortality risk by increasing the risk of postneonatal (rather than neonatal) mortality. Taken together, results suggest that mass imprisonment may have consequences for population health and should be considered in subsequent analyses assessing variation in health across states, nations and individuals.

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Presented in Session 89: Demography of Crime and Punishment