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Justice-involved Individuals in the Labor Market since the Great Recession

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Working Paper Number ADEP-WP-2021-04


We examine how individuals convicted of a felony or released from prison have fared in the labor market since the Great Recession. Using data from thirteen states in the Criminal Justice Administrative Records System (CJARS) linked with IRS W-2 information returns, we measure the employment and earnings of cohorts with focal criminal justice events before, during, and after the recession. These justice-involved cohorts experienced significant declines in employment and earnings during and immediately after the recession. Outcomes improved moderately during the long recovery but are still far below those of a reference group of people without high school degrees who were not involved in the justice system. We also correlate the employment outcomes of the justice involved to industry-specific local economic performance, finding that expansions in the construction and other services sectors are positively correlated with growing employment and especially earnings.


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