The cumulative risk of jail incarceration

with Bruce Western, Jacklyn Davis, and Natalie Smith

PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States Vol. 118 No. 16 (2021)

Research on incarceration has focused on prisons, but jail detention is far more common than imprisonment. Jails are local institutions that detain people before trial or incarcerate them for short sentences for low-level offenses. Research from the 1970s and 1980s viewed jails as “managing the rabble,” a small and deeply disadvantaged segment of urban populations that struggled with problems of addiction, mental illness, and homelessness. The 1990s and 2000s marked a period of mass criminalization in which new styles of policing and court processing produced large numbers of criminal cases for minor crimes, concentrated in low-income communities of color. In a period of widespread criminal justice contact for minor offenses, how common is jail incarceration for minority men, particularly in poor neighborhoods? We estimate cumulative risks of jail incarceration with an administrative data file that records all jail admissions and discharges in New York City from 2008 to 2017. Although New York has a low jail incarceration rate, we find that 26.8% of Black men and 16.2% of Latino men, in contrast to only 3% of White men, in New York have been jailed by age 38 y. We also find evidence of high rates of repeated incarceration among Black men and high incarceration risks in high-poverty neighborhoods. Despite the jail’s great reach in New York, we also find that the incarcerated population declined in the study period, producing a large reduction in the prevalence of jail incarceration for Black and Latino men.

Working papers

Identification of Preferences in Forced-Choice Conjoint Experiments: Reassessing the Quantity of Interest

Forced-choice conjoint experiments have become a standard element of the experimental toolbox in political science and sociology. Yet the literature has largely overlooked the fact that conjoint experiments are used for two distinct purposes: to uncover respondents' multidimensional preferences, and to estimate the causal effects of some attributes on a profile's selection probability in a multidimensional choice setting. This paper makes the argument that this distinction is both analytically and practically relevant, because the quantity of interest is contingent on the purpose of the study. The vast majority of social scientists relying on conjoint analyses, including most scholars interested in studying preferences, have adopted the average marginal component effect (AMCE) as their main quantity of interest. The paper shows that the AMCE is neither conceptually nor practically suited to explore respondents' preferences. Not only is it essentially a causal quantity conceptually at odds with the goal of describing patterns of preferences, but it also does generally not identify preferences, mixing them with compositional effects unrelated to preferences. This paper proposes a novel estimand—the average component preference (ACP)—designed to explore patterns of preferences, and it presents a method for estimating it.

Replication materials

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