Out of Jail and off the Books: Employment, Wages, and Child Support Arrangements among Former Inmates

Bryan L. Sykes, University of Washington

Research on employment in the underground economy suggests that the urban poor are immersed in a wide and dense web of economic exchanges that increase their level of subsistence beyond conventional living standards associated with wages from the formal labor market. Yet previous work is limited by the geographic space, as well as the unit of analysis, in exploring how employment and wages from "off the books" work affects family support and downward transfers to children. I explore how employment in the underground economy structures child support agreements between unwed parents. Results from my analysis indicate that former inmates are more likely to work in the underground economy, work longer hours in their "off the books" profession, and earn significantly less (per hour) than their similarly situated, never incarcerated counterparts.

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Presented in Session 142: The Demographic Effects of Racial and Ethnic Differences in Incarceration Rates