Word on the Street

Kevin Lewis

February 16, 2024

Entrepreneurship as a Response to Labor Market Discrimination for Formerly Incarcerated People
Kylie Jiwon Hwang & Damon Phillips
American Journal of Sociology, forthcoming

This article examines entrepreneurship as a response to labor market discrimination. Specifically, we examine entrepreneurship as a career choice for formerly incarcerated individuals, a group of individuals who face substantial discrimination in the labor market. Using the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 data, we find that formerly incarcerated people are more likely to become entrepreneurs compared to individuals who have never been incarcerated. We take advantage of a quasi-experimental setting by using the staggered implementation of "ban-the-box" policies in the United States to disentangle the underlying mechanism of how labor market discrimination affects formerly incarcerated individuals in their entrepreneurial choices. The findings suggest that formerly incarcerated Black individuals pursue entrepreneurship due to the discrimination they face from employers. We also find that entrepreneurship is a viable alternative career choice for formerly incarcerated people, yielding both higher income and lower recidivism rates. In addition to reporting robustness checks and addressing alternative explanations, we discuss theoretical, empirical, and policy implications.

Adult Children of the Prison Boom: Family Troubles and the Intergenerational Transmission of Criminal Justice Contact
Christopher Wildeman, Robert Sampson & Garrett Baker
Demography, February 2024, Pages 141-164

Intergenerational transmission processes have long been of interest to demographers, but prior research on the intergenerational transmission of criminal justice contact is relatively sparse and limited by its lack of attention to the correlated "family troubles" and familial incarceration that predate criminal justice contact. In this article, we provide a test of the intergenerational transmission of criminal justice contact after adjusting extensively for these factors that predate such contact by linking longitudinal data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods with official arrest histories from 1995 to 2020. The results provide support for three conclusions. First, parental criminal justice contact is associated with a shorter time to first arrest and a larger number of arrests even after rigorously accounting for selection. Second, robustness checks demonstrate that neither the magnitude nor the significance of the findings is sensitive to model choices. Third, associations are strongest among White individuals and inconsistently significant for African American and Hispanic individuals. Despite large recent crime declines, the results indicate that parental criminal justice contact elevates the criminal justice contact of the adult children of the prison boom, independent of the often-overlooked troubles that predate criminal justice contact, and that these associations are strongest among the White population.

The Impact of Race and Skin Color on Police Contact and Arrest: Results From a Nationally Representative Longitudinal Study
Michael TenEyck et al.
Race and Justice, forthcoming

Racial inequality in arrest is a social problem that has challenged the United States for as long as police records have been kept. Prior work documents the extent of the disparity and observational studies have attempted to sort out the mechanisms that explain why the disparity exists. Building on the "constructivist" perspective of race, the current study draws on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to assess the degree to which race and skin color explain the observed racial disparity in criminal justice contact and arrest. Results revealed that controlling for criminal behavior and a host of covariates, neither race nor skin color increased the likelihood of police contact. Race, however, was predictive of an increase in the odds of arrest -- with Black respondents being 92% more likely to experience arrest than White respondents -- and this relationship remained controlling for the effects of skin color, police contact, and prior criminal behavior. These findings suggest that the "race effect" may be due to unobserved biases not related to skin color.

A Link Between the George Floyd Incident and De-Policing: Evidence From Police Arrests Across Three Racial and Ethnic Groups
Yan Zhang, Jihong Solomon Zhao & Chia-Hung Lin
Police Quarterly, forthcoming

The purpose of this study is to examine the George Floyd effect on depolicing. Police misdemeanor and felony arrests by the Houston Police Department (HPD), with these police actions serve as the primary measures of law enforcement behavior. Specifically, we break down police misdemeanor and felony arrests among Hispanic, Black, and White residents. An Interrupted Time Series Analysis model is used in the analysis. The primary findings suggest that there was an initial steep drop of police arrests immediately after the Floyd incident for both misdemeanor and felony arrests. The long-term effect, however, remains present in only misdemeanant arrests. Police felony arrests went back to pre-incident levels within a short period of time. In addition, it is noted that the pattern of arrests between Blacks and Hispanics is similar. Some policy implications and the limitations of the study are discussed in a concluding section.

Ban the Box? Information, Incentives, and Statistical Discrimination
John Patty & Elizabeth Maggie Penn
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Fall 2023, Pages 513-542

"Banning the Box" refers to a policy campaign aimed at prohibiting employers from soliciting applicant information that could be used to statistically discriminate against categories of applicants (in particular, those with criminal records). In this article, we examine how the concealing or revealing of informative features about an applicant's identity affects hiring both directly and, in equilibrium, by possibly changing applicants' incentives to invest in human capital. We show that there exist situations in which an employer and an applicant are in agreement about whether to ban the box. Specifically, depending on the structure of the labor market, banning the box can be (1) Pareto dominant, (2) Pareto dominated, (3) benefit the applicant while harming the employer, or (4) benefit the employer while harming the applicant. Our results have policy implications spanning beyond employment decisions, including the use of credit checks by landlords and standardized tests in college admissions.

Criminal Record Stigma in the Labor Market for College Graduates: A Mixed Methods Study
Michael Cerda-Jara, David Harding & The Underground Scholars Research Cohort
Sociological Science, January 2024

One of the primary ways in which contact with the criminal legal system creates and maintains inequality is through the stigma of a criminal record. Although the negative effects of the stigma of a criminal record are well-documented, existing research is limited to the low-wage labor market. Through a job application audit design, this study examines the role of criminal record stigma in the labor market for recent college graduates across Black, Latino, and white men. We find that criminal record stigma has a large effect among white college-educated men but not among Black or Latino men and find no evidence that earning a college degree after the record mitigates criminal record stigma. In-depth interviews with college-educated men with a criminal record show that the criminal record stigma has effects beyond the initial application stage, as many reported provisional job offers being rescinded following a criminal background check, leading participants to limit the jobs to which they applied.

Are Dollar Stores Magnets for Violent Crime? Evidence from Chicago
Eun Jin Shin
Urban Affairs Review, forthcoming

With the rise of economic inequality in recent decades, dollar stores have flourished in the United States. Although the media has increasingly portrayed dollar stores as violent crime magnets, limited academic research has examined their impact on nearby crime. This study employed a difference-in-differences approach to investigate the impact of dollar stores on localized violent crime patterns in Chicago. Results showed a significant increase in violent crimes, especially robberies, in nearby areas relative to the control areas, following the opening of dollar stores. There were no signs of spatial crime displacement. Moreover, after the closing of dollar stores, the levels of violent crime in nearby areas relative to the control areas returned to those of the prestore opening period, regardless of the type of crime. This study also explored how the impact of dollar store openings on nearby crime rates evolves over time and varies according to the surrounding context of the store's location.

Neck-restraint bans, law enforcement officer unions, and police killings
Brenden Beck, Joseph Antonelli & Angela LaScala-Gruenewald
Criminology & Public Policy, forthcoming

Following high-profile police killings, many U.S. cities banned officers from using chokeholds and other neck restraints. The evidence for such bans, however, is limited. To test whether use-of-force policies prohibiting neck restraints are related to fewer police killings, we use three modeling approaches to analyze 2183 U.S. cities between 2009 and 2021. Police killings were lower in places that adopted neck-restraint bans and the bans were associated with less crime and fewer assaults on officers, net of controls. Because officer labor unions can affect use-of-force policies and the frequency of police killings, we also analyzed them, finding unionization increased the likelihood a city had a neck-restraint ban and had a null or negative association with police killings.

The cyber-industrialization of catfishing and romance fraud
Fangzhou Wang & Volkan Topalli
Computers in Human Behavior, May 2024

We examine a new form of online fraud, which we refer to as Intimacy Manipulated Fraud Industrialization (IMFI). This type of fraud bears a strong resemblance to traditional online romance fraud and catfishing, but is "industrialized" through enterprise business practices, software platforms, and customer service processes. To gain a better understanding of this operation, we conducted an inductive analysis of publicly available testimonial and review data provided by current and prior employees of a specific company in the online customer service contract space. Companies hire individuals online to work as "chat moderators" or "customer service providers" who are told that they are to advance engagement on social media platforms. In fact, they are being recruited as "sexting" workers, paid on a per-text basis to engage in intimate chatting with clients who believe they're interacting with individuals of the opposite gender on a dating site. The process is mediated via client management processes that monitor employee productivity and monetize all interactions between "clients" and "workers." The company executes these processes with great efficiency by algorithmically assigning multiple workers to individual clients and assembling background files on clients in real time. We found that workers serve as both exploiters of their clients as well as victims of the company they work for. The implications of our study could significantly impact how we address AI-generated online fraud in the future, shedding light on the complex dynamics at play within these fraudulent enterprises.


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