Crime, Incarceration, and Poverty

Steven Raphael

in The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Poverty

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195393781
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Crime, Incarceration, and Poverty

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  • Economics
  • Health, Education, and Welfare
  • Microeconomics



This article examines the relationships between poverty, low incomes, criminal participation, and the risk of incarceration. It begins with an empirical portrait of the incarcerated by using a nationally representative survey of U.S. prison inmates. It documents the demographic and human-capital characteristics of the incarcerated and how these characteristics vary between state and federal prison inmates. Next, it characterizes the relative risks of incarceration for various demographic subgroups within the United States. It presents a discussion of theoretical explanations linking poverty with higher rates of criminal offending, and consequently higher punishment levels. It considers the close connection between race and criminal offending in the United States. Finally, the relationship between human capital and participation in crime is discussed.

Keywords: poverty; low incomes; criminal activity; prison inmates; criminal offending; race; human capital

Article.  9606 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Health, Education, and Welfare ; Microeconomics

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