Mass Incarceration and the Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality: Examining the Effect of Paternal Incarceration on Children’s Educational Outcomes
Kristin Turney

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Irvine

Primary Discipline

The dramatic rise in mass incarceration in the United States, which began in the mid-1970s and has continued mostly unabated, means that incarceration is a common event for an increasing number of individuals and families. In response to this rapid growth in incarceration, an escalating literature suggests the incarceration of a father is linked to an array of negative outcomes for children, including educational disadvantages, problem behaviors, substance use, homelessness, and delinquency. Despite this growing literature, there are several opportunities to extend our knowledge about the relationship between paternal incarceration and children’s educational outcomes in early and middle childhood. This research project addresses the following four questions: (1) How does paternal incarceration contribute to the well-established race/ethnic and social class inequalities in children’s educational outcomes (measured as cognitive skills, non-cognitive skills, and grade retention)?; (2) What are the time-varying effects of paternal incarceration on children’s educational outcomes?; (3) How does the effect of paternal incarceration on children’s educational outcomes vary by propensity for incarceration?; and (4) What are the pathways through which paternal incarceration leads to deleterious educational outcomes? I will answer these questions with longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a data source uniquely positioned to understand complexities in the relationship between paternal incarceration and children’s educational outcomes, and an array of methodological approaches to minimize social selection biases. Given that children’s educational outcomes in early and middle childhood are associated with educational achievement and attainment throughout the life course, understanding how paternal incarceration is linked to these outcomes will shed light on intergenerational processes of social stratification.
About Kristin Turney
Kristin Turney is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine and a faculty affiliate at the Center for Demographic and Social Analysis (C-DASA). She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 and, from 2009 to 2011, was a Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar at the University of Michigan. Broadly, her research investigates intra- and inter-generational social inequalities in wellbeing across the life course. Current projects include understanding the collateral consequences of incarceration for children and families, the effects of depression on family life, and the causes and consequences of childhood health inequalities. Her substantive interests are accompanied by a methodological interest in causal inference. This research has been funded by the American Educational Research Association, the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the National Center for Family and Marriage Research.

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