Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Heimer, Karen

First Committee Member

Campbell, Mary E

Second Committee Member

Leicht, Kevin T

Third Committee Member

Noonan, Mary C

Fourth Committee Member

Lang, Joseph B


Between the 1970s and 2000, the U.S. imprisonment rate increased by 700% (e.g., Beck and Harrison 2001). During the same time period, technological advancements and the decline of manufacturing production in urban areas eliminated many of the higher-paying blue collar job opportunities previously available to workers without college educations (e.g., Morris and Western 1999). The simultaneous large changes in imprisonment and labor markets are striking and the co-occurrence of these events suggests a possible connection between increasingly insecure employment conditions and rising imprisonment rates. Further, policies targeting the poor population (including criminal justice) became more punitive since the 1970s. This co-occurred with a resurgence of Republican Party popularity and overall imprisonment rates subsequently increased (e.g., Beckett and Sasson 2004). Understanding the association between labor market conditions and imprisonment may be especially important for historically disadvantaged minority groups. Research has yet to consider how specific labor market shifts (e.g., restricted blue collar opportunities) may influence imprisonment rates. It is unknown whether such labor market dynamics may better explain the exposure of historically disadvantaged racial minorities to criminal justice system control. This project examines the issues raised in the foregoing discussion using a unique dataset created for this purpose. Data at the local-level are combined from two primary sources: the National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP) (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics1989 and 1999), and Integrated Public Use Micro Sample (IPUMS) data (1990 and 2000) (Ruggles, Alexander, Genadek, Goeken, Schroeder, and Sobek 2010). This project also draws from two general election studies, "General Election Data for the United States" (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research 1995) and American University Federal Elections Project data (Lublin and Voss 2001), and controls for criminal justice system characteristics using the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) (U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation 1988, 1989, 1998, 1999) and The Book of the States (1990 and 2000). Findings suggest that the percentage of men without college education and restricted blue collar employment rates for unskilled workers are positively associated with prison admission rates within the corresponding local areas. In addition, the local percentage voting for Republican presidential candidates is positively associated with prison admission rates. Further, concentrated disadvantage among local African American populations is significantly and positively associated with prison admission rates for this group. Conversely, concentrated socioeconomic disadvantage among Whites is significantly and negatively associated with prison admission rates for African Americans. In addition, the local percentage of unskilled African Americans is significantly and positively associated with prison admission rates for African Americans and Whites. Finally, the percentage of unskilled workers employed in blue collar industries is significantly and negatively associated with African American and not significantly associated with White prison admission rates.


Imprisonment, Labor Markets, Race


ix, 178 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 156-178).


Copyright 2012 Samantha Renee Cumley

Included in

Sociology Commons