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Incarceration and Income Mobility

Via Annie Lowrey, a report from the Pew Economic Mobility Project on the collateral impact of incarceration. The fact that getting sent to jail is bad for a poor person’s prospect of becoming non-poor is pretty intuitive, but the scale of the impact is noteworthy:

That’s pretty striking stuff. It’s become well-known that the United States doesn’t really have as much social mobility as people like to think, and this makes it look like getting sent to jail is a big part of the reason why. Mark Kleiman’s advice in When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment is the best thing I’ve read about how to turn this situation around. Meanwhile, I think the conversation on inequality could use more focus on issues like this — what, concretely, is stopping people from getting ahead — and less quibbling about the data. There are concrete steps we could take to make people better-off, and we should take them.

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