Institution for Social and Policy Studies

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Does Incarceration Reduce Voting? Evidence about the Political Consequences of Spending Time in Prison

Author(s): 

Alan S. Gerber, Gregory A. Huber, Marc Meredith, Daniel R. Biggers, and David J. Hendry

ISPS ID: 
ISPS17-25
Full citation: 
Alan S. Gerber, Gregory A. Huber, Marc Meredith, Daniel R. Biggers, David J. Hendry (2017). "Does Incarceration Reduce Voting? Evidence about the Political Consequences of Spending Time in Prison," The Journal of Politics 79(4):(pages not available). Published online July 19, 2017. DOI: 10.1086/692670
Abstract: 
The rise in mass incarceration provides a growing impetus to understand the effect that interactions with the criminal justice system have on political participation. While a substantial body of prior research studies the political consequences of criminal disenfranchisement, less work examines why eligible ex-felons vote at very low rates. We use administrative data on voting and interactions with the criminal justice system from Pennsylvania to assess whether the association between incarceration and reduced voting is causal. Using administrative records that reduce the possibility of measurement error, we employ several different research designs to investigate the possibility that the observed negative correlation between incarceration and voting might result from differences across individuals that lead both to incarceration and to low participation. As this selection bias issue is addressed, we find that the estimated effect of serving time in prison on voting falls dramatically and for some research designs vanishes entirely.
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Supplemental information: 

Link to article here.

Publication date: 
2017
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