How Unregulated Is the U.S. Labor Market? The Penal System as a Labor Market Institution

The unemployment rate in the U.S. would be higher if fewer people were incarcerated. By analyzing employment and prison data, this article demonstrates how prisons serve to 'hide' unemployment in short-term analyses of the economy, and in the long-term, contribute to unemployment by making it difficult for formerly incarcerated people to find and maintain employment.


Western, B., & Katherine Beckett. (1999). How Unregulated Is the U.S. Labor Market? The Penal System as a Labor Market Institution. American Journal of Sociology, 104(4), 1030–1060. https://booksc.org/book/59846137/535b26

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