Bruce Western

Bruce Western
Harvard University | Harvard

About

92
Publications
21,998
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12,317
Citations
Citations since 2017
8 Research Items
5680 Citations
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Publications

Publications (92)
Article
Criminalization is the process by which people are classified by authorities as criminal and become subject to the control of criminal justice agencies— police, courts, and correctional departments. “Careers in criminalization” refers to sustained criminal justice involvement through repeated incarceration and ongoing police and court contact. Care...
Article
Across a variety of measures of safety and rehabilitation, our current systems of parole and probation are failing. Research shows that community supervision fails to reduce crime; traps its subjects in cycles of criminal justice involvement; is excessively punitive; and creates widespread harm to individuals, families, and communities—all while fa...
Article
Court-related fines and fees are widely levied on criminal defendants who are frequently poor and have little capacity to pay. Such financial obligations may produce a criminalization of poverty, where later court involvement results not from crime but from an inability to meet the financial burdens of the legal process. We test this hypothesis usi...
Chapter
U.S. mass incarceration is characterized by pervasive imprisonment among black men with little schooling that is often viewed as the product of punitive criminal justice policy. This chapter argues that pervasive incarceration also arises under a specific set of social conditions that make police contact and detention overwhelmingly likely. This wo...
Article
The question of inequality has moved decisively to the top of the contemporary intellectual agenda. Going beyond Thomas Piketty’s focus on wealth, increasing inequalities of various kinds, and their impact on social, political and economic life, now present themselves among the most urgent issues facing scholars in the humanities and the social sci...
Article
Why do some people succeed in the labor market after incarceration but others do not? We study the transition from prison to work with data on monthly employment and earnings for a sample of men and women observed for a year after incarceration. More than in earlier research, the data provide detailed measurement of temporary and informal employmen...
Article
The negative effects of incarceration on child well-being are often linked to the economic insecurity of formerly incarcerated parents. Researchers caution, however, that the effects of parental incarceration may be small in the presence of multiple-partner fertility and other family complexity. Despite these claims, few studies have directly obser...
Article
Significance Very poor and otherwise disadvantaged populations pose a challenge for research. The circumstances of extreme disadvantage—homelessness, acute economic insecurity, untreated addiction or mental illness, for example—are urgent problems but also make research subjects elusive or unwilling. We examine study retention in a deeply disadvant...
Article
Has income insecurity increased among U.S. children with the emergence of an employment-based safety net and the polarization of labor markets and family structure? We study the trend in insecurity from 1984-2010 by analyzing fluctuations in children's monthly family incomes in the Survey of Income and Program Participation. Going beyond earlier re...
Article
The historic increase in U.S. incarceration rates made the transition from prison to community common for poor, prime-age men and women. Leaving prison presents the challenge of social integration—of connecting with family and finding housing and a means of subsistence. The authors study variation in social integration in the first months after pri...
Book
After decades of stability from the 1920s to the early 1970s, the rate of imprisonment in the United States more than quadrupled during the last four decades. The U.S. penal population of 2.2 million adults is by far the largest in the world. Just under one-quarter of the world's prisoners are held in American prisons. The U.S. rate of incarceratio...
Article
Full-text available
Provisions of the Affordable Care Act offer new opportunities to apply a public health and medical perspective to the complex relationship between involvement in the criminal justice system and the existence of fundamental health disparities. Incarceration can cause harm to individual and community health, but prisons and jails also hold enormous p...
Technical Report
Full-text available
After decades of stability from the 1920s to the early 1970s, the rate of incarceration in the United States more than quadrupled in the past four decades. The Committee on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration in the United States was established under the auspices of the National Research Council, supported by the National In...
Article
The U.S. prison and jail population has grown fivefold in the 40 years since the early 1970s. The aggregate consequences of the growth in the penal system are widely claimed but have not been closely studied. We survey evidence for the aggregate relationship among the incarceration rate, employment rates, single-parenthood, public opinion, and crim...
Article
Economic insecurity describes the risk of economic loss faced by workers and households as they encounter the unpredictable events of social life. Our review suggests a four-part framework for studying the distribution and trends in these economic risks. First, a focus on households rather than workers captures the microlevel risk pooling that can...
Article
Antidiscrimination law offers protection to workers who have been treated unfairly on the basis of their race, gender, religion, or national origin. In order for these protections to be invoked, however, potential plaintiffs must be aware of and able to document discriminatory treatment. Given the subtlety of contemporary forms of discrimination, i...
Article
Policy reforms and rising income inequality transformed educational and economic opportunities for Americans approaching midlife in the 1990s. Rising income inequality may have reduced mobility, as income gaps increased between rich and poor children. Against the effects of rising inequality, Civil Rights reforms may have increased mobility, as opp...
Article
Full-text available
High U.S. incarceration rates have motivated recent research on the negative effects of imprisonment on later employment, earnings, and family relationships. Because most men in jail and prison are fathers, a large number of children may be placed at considerable risk by policies of incarceration. This article examines one dimension of the economic...
Article
Since the mid-1970s the U.S. imprisonment rate has increased roughly fivefold. As Christopher Wildeman and Bruce Western explain, the effects of this sea change in the imprisonment rate—commonly called mass imprisonment or the prison boom—have been concentrated among those most likely to form fragile families: poor and minority men with little scho...
Article
Decades of racial progress have led some researchers and policymakers to doubt that discrimination remains an important cause of economic inequality. To study contemporary discrimination, we conducted a field experiment in the low-wage labor market of New York City, recruiting white, black, and Latino job applicants who were matched on demographic...
Article
Regression-based studies of inequality model only between-group differences, yet often these differences are far exceeded by residual inequality. Residual inequality is usually attributed to measurement error or the influence of unobserved characteristics. We present a model, called variance function regression, that includes covariates for both th...
Article
In this article, the authors report the results of a large-scale field experiment conducted in New York City investigating the effects of race and a prison record on employment. Teams of black and white men were matched and sent to apply for low-wage jobs throughout the city, presenting equivalent resumés and differing only in their race and crimin...
Article
Sociological research often examines the effects of social context with hierarchical models. In these applications, individuals are nested in social contexts—like school classes, neighborhoods or villages—whose effects are thought to shape individual outcomes. Although applications of hierarchical models are common in sociology, analysis usually fo...
Article
This essay reviews five books as they relate to the causes and political consequences of mass imprisonment in the United States and the comparative politics of penal policy: Ruth Wilson Gilmore's Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (2007); Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen's Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchi...
Conference Paper
Background and Purpose: Incarceration is widespread in the United States, a phenomenon with implications for families as well as individuals. In 2002, over 1.1 million parents (mostly fathers) with over 2.4 million minor children were incarcerated in State and Federal prisons or local jails. Research has shown significant negative effects on empl...
Article
Released in 1965, the Moynihan Report traced the severe social and economic distress of poor urban African Americans to high rates of single-parenthood. Against Moynihan's calls for social investment in poor inner-city communities, politics moved in a punitive direction, driving massive growth in the prison population. The authors document the emer...
Article
Full-text available
Incarceration is widespread in the United States, and previous literature has shown significant negative effects of incarceration on later employment, earnings, and relationship stability. Given the high rates of fatherhood among men in jails and prisons, a large number of children are placed at considerable risk when a parent is incarcerated. This...
Article
The US imprisonment rate increased fivefold in the three decades from 1975 to 2005. Growth in the scale of criminal punishment was linked partly to a more punitive politics that repudiated the goal of rehabilitation, and partly to the collapse of economic opportunity for young unskilled men in inner cities. The growth of the penal system produced e...
Article
* This research has been supported by a grant from the Russell Sage Foundation, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship, and the New York University Center for Advanced Social Science Research.
Article
The chapters in this volume are part of a burgeoning research literature that studies the social and economic effects of imprisonment. Earlier work on the effects of incarceration focused on the recidivism of those coming out of prison and jail. Recent research, however, also examines how imprisonment affects the socioeconomic life of prisoners and...
Article
Full-text available
Employers have experimented with three broad approaches to promoting diversity. Some programs are designed to establish organizational responsibility for diversity, others to moderate managerial bias through training and feedback, and still others to reduce the social isolation of women and minority workers. These approaches find support in academi...
Article
Despite many approaches of neoclassical and endogenous growth theory, economists still face problems in explaining the reasons for income differences between countries. Institutional economics and the deep determinants of growth literature try to depart from pure economic facts to examine economic development. Therefore, this article analyzes the i...
Article
Over the last thirty years, the prison population in the United States has increased more than sevenfold to over 2 million people, including vastly disproportionate numbers of minorities and people with little education. For some racial and educational groups, incarceration has become a depressingly regular experience, and prison culture and influe...
Article
The observed gap in average wages between black men and white men inadequately reflects the relative economic standing of blacks, who suffer from a high rate of joblessness. The authors estimate the black-white gap in hourly wages from 1980 to 1999 adjusting for the sample selection effect of labor inactivity. Among working-age men in 1999, account...
Article
Rising imprisonment rates and declining marriage rates among low-education African Americans motivate an analysis of the effects of incarceration on marriage. An event history analysis of 2,041 unmarried men from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth suggests that men are unlikely to marry in the years they serve in prison. A separate analysis...
Article
Employment and marriage play central roles in standard analyses of recidivism, and a long line of research suggests that ex-offenders who find good jobs and settle down in stable marriages threaten public safety much less than those who remain single and unemployed. Successful prisoner reentry thus involves the linked processes of reintegration int...
Article
Full-text available
In much of the political economy literature, social democratic governments are assumed to defend the interests of labor. The main thrust of this article is that labor is divided into those with secure employment (insiders) and those without (outsiders). I argue that the goals of social democratic parties are often best served by pursuing policies t...
Article
Full-text available
This paper studies the effects of wages and employment on men's prison admission rates in the United States from 1983 to 2001. Research on the effects of the labor market on incarceration usually examines national- or state-level data, but our analysis studies prison admission among black and white men in specific age-education groups. We find a si...
Article
Full-text available
Political relationships often vary over time, but standard models ignore temporal variation in regression relationships. We describe a Bayesian model that treats the change point in a time series as a parameter to be estimated. In this model, inference for the regression coefficients reflects prior uncertainty about the location of the change point...
Article
Although growth in the U.S. prison population over the past twenty-five years has been widely discussed, few studies examine changes in inequality in imprisonment. We study penal inequality by estimating lifetime risks of imprisonment for black and white men at different levels of education. Combining administrative, survey, and census data, we est...
Article
David Garland's The Culture of Control provides a powerful analysis of trends in crime and criminal justice policy over the last 30 years. This note re-examines two parts of the Garland thesis. First, it argues that punitive criminal justice policy is rooted in an authoritarian neoconservative politics that shares little with free-market ideology....
Article
The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
Article
Two major social trends steadily reduced the living standards of young American men with little education over the last thirty years. The earnings of men with just a high school education were eroded by the tide of rising U.S. income inequality. While wages fell, growth in the American penal system turned prison and jail time into common life event...
Article
▪ Abstract Median income in the United States has fallen and the distribution of income has grown markedly more unequal over the past three decades, reversing a general pattern of earnings growth and equalization dating back to 1929. Median trends were not the same for all groups—women's earnings generally increased—but the growth in earnings inequ...
Article
A life course perspective on crime indicates that incarceration can disrupt key life transitions. Life course analysis of occupations finds that earnings mobility depends on stable employment in career jobs. These two lines of research thus suggest that incarceration reduces ex-inmates' access to the steady jobs that usually produce earnings growth...
Article
New union members in the United States are typically gained through workplace elections. We find that the annual number of union elections fell by 50 per cent in the early 1980s. A formal model indicates that declining union election activity may be due to an unfavourable political climate which raises the costs of unionization, even though the uni...
Article
One question dominates methodological debate in macrosociology: In explaining large-scale social processes should we seek simple theories that apply under a range of conditions or complex theories that are tailored to specific cases? Complex explanations are justified by their explanatory power and theoretical appeal. Simple explanations are justif...
Chapter
The movement for European integration has yielded a European Union of fifteen states with a unified monetary system that will eventually embrace over 370 million people. If current trends continue, an average of one in ten of these people will be unemployed. Not surprisingly, the European public ranks joblessness among its primary political concern...
Article
Rapid growth in the incarceration rate over the last two decades has made prison time a routine event in the life course of young economically disadvantaged, black and Hispanic men. Although incarceration may now have large effects on economic inequality, only a few studies systematically examine the labor market experiences of ex-offenders. We rev...
Article
After documenting the long decline in private sector unionism over the last 50 years, we present an accounting framework that decomposes the sharp decline in the private sector union membership rate into components due to (1) differential growth rates in employment between the union and nonunion sectors and (2) changes in the union new organization...
Article
Rapid growth in the incarceration rate over the past two decades has made prison time a routine event in the life course of young, economically disadvantaged Black and Hispanic men. Although incarceration may now have large effects on economic inequality, only a few studies systematically examine the labor market experiences of ex-offenders. We rev...
Article
This paper was prepared for the volume on Families and Crime, edited by Greer Litton Fox. Correspondence can be directed to the authors at the Office of Population Research, 21 Prospect Avenue, Princeton University, Princeton NJ 08544. This paper was written while Western was a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, New York. Kristen Hark...
Article
Key Words collective bargaining, industrial relations, wage setting s Abstract Between 1950 and 1980, labor markets grew increasingly organized in advanced industrial societies. Union membership in most countries expanded more rapidly than the labor force, centralized wage setting became more common, and union members became increasingly concentrat...
Article
After documenting the long decline in private sector unionism over the last 50 years, we examine data on NLRB representation elections to determine if changes in the administration of the NLRA during the 1980s reduced the level of organizing activity and success. While organizing activity sharply declined in 1981 (just before President Reagan's sho...
Article
After documenting the long decline in private sector unionism over the last 50 years, we examine data on NLRB representation elections to determine if changes in the administration of the NLRA during the 1980s reduced the level of organizing activity and success. While organizing activity sharply declined in 1981 (just before President Reagan's sho...
Article
To estimate employment-population ratios for black and white men with an adjustment for incarceration-a factor overlooked by most research on employment inequality-the authors combine data from surveys of prisons and jails with data from the Current Population Survey. This adjustment significantly reduces estimated employment rates for African Amer...
Article
Wage growth slowed significantly in OECD countries in the 1980s and 1990s. Market explanations trace the wage slowdown to a recession characterized by inflationary shocks, high unemployment, and slow productivity growth. Institutional accounts focus on the effects of union density, collective bargaining centralization, and labour government. Analys...
Article
This article provides an applied introduction to Bayesian statistics for sociologists. Unlike frequentist statistics, which attaches repeated-sampling frequencies to test statistics, Bayesian statistics directly describes uncertainty about unknown statistical parameters with a probability distribution. With this foundation, much of Bayesian statist...
Article
Pooled cross-sectional time-series models in comparative politics typically constrain the effects of variables to be identical across countries. These models conflict with general principles of comparative analysis and theories of comparative political economy that the models are designed to test. In contrast, Bayesian hierarchical models allow tim...
Article
With approximately 1,5 million working age men currently housed in America's prisons and jails, the US penal system has far-reaching labor market effects. We analyze these effects, focusing on the experiences of young minority men. Counting the incarcerated among the unemployed raises US male jobless rates above the European average for most of the...
Conference Paper
Comparative economic research contrasts the corporatist welfare states of Europe with the unregulated U.S. labour market to explain low rates of U. S. unemployment in the 1980s and 1990s. In contrast, we argue that the American state made a large and coercive intervention into the labour market through the expansion of the penal system. The impact...
Article
In the last 15 years, unionization rates in Australia dropped from more than 50% of the employed labor force to less than 40%-the lowest level of union organization since the 1930s. In contrast to western European trends, Australian unions declined while collective bargaining became more centralized and the Labor Party enjoyed unprecedented elector...
Article
Vague macrosociological theory generates uncertainty about statistical models. As a result, statistical inferences in macrosociology - where data sets are small and collinear - may carry considerably more error than is indicated by the conventional estimation and testing methods. I describe a Bayesian approach that propagates uncertainty about stat...
Article
In contrast to the diverse trends that prevailed for most of the postwar period, unionization rates in the advanced capitalist countries generally declined in the 1980s. I propose a discrete-time hazard-rate model to explain this novel pattern of labor disorganization. Model estimates indicate that union decline is related to growing economic openn...
Article
A key debate in studies of unionization concerns the influence of structural characteristics of labor markets on labor organizing. Studies of national survey data reveal strong relationships between unionization and demographic, industrial, and occupational structures. By contrast, comparativists analyzing highly aggregated union density data empha...
Article
Unionization follows strongly divergent patterns among OECD countries in the postwar period. I propose business cycle, demographic, and political arguments to explain varying unionization over time. Centralized union movements that engage in corporatist bargaining and union disbursement of unemployment benefits suggest explanations of cross-nationa...
Article
We examine the deterrent effect of arrest in incidents of spouse abuse. The data are from field experiments conducted in four cities--Milwaukee, Omaha, Dade County (Florida), and Colorado Springs. On the average, arrest is no more effective than other police interventions in reducing new incidents of violence. However, arrest has differential effec...
Article
This Article analyzes data from the Colorado Springs Spouse Abuse Experiment. In that experiment, suspects apprehended for misdemeanor spouse abuse were assigned at random to one of four treatments: (1) an emergency order of protection for the victim coupled with arrest of the suspect; (2) an emergency order of protection for the victim coupled wit...
Article
Full-text available
Has federal antidiscrimination law been effective in moving women and minorities into management? Early studies show that government affirmative action reviews improved the numbers, and rank, of blacks, but evidence of what has happened since 1980 is sparse. There is little evidence that civil rights lawsuits improved the employment status of women...
Article
Standard measures of economic disadvantage among young men became in-creasingly optimistic through the 1980s and 1990s due to the increase in the U.S. incarceration rate. I quantify the concealed inequality due to incarcera-tion by (1) constructing employment to population ratios that include prison and jail inmates among those out of work, and (2)...

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