Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Skip to content

Unintended Impacts of Sentencing Reforms and Incarceration on Family Structure in the United States, 1984-1998

Metadata Updated: November 28, 2023

This project sought to investigate a possible relationship between sentencing guidelines and family structure in the United States. The research team developed three research modules that employed a variety of data sources and approaches to understand family destabilization and community distress, which cannot be observed directly. These three research modules were used to discover causal relationships between male withdrawal from productive spheres of the economy and resulting changes in the community and families. The research modules approached the issue of sentencing guidelines and family structure by studying: (1) the flow of inmates into prison (Module A), (2) the role of and issues related to sentencing reform (Module B), and family disruption in a single state (Module C). Module A utilized the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program data for 1984 and 1993 (Parts 1 and 2), the 1984 and 1993 National Correctional Reporting Program (NCRP) data (Parts 3-6), the Urban Institute's 1980 and 1990 Underclass Database (UDB) (Part 7), the 1985 and 1994 National Longitudinal Survey on Youth (NLSY) (Parts 8 and 9), and county population, social, and economic data from the Current Population Survey, County Business Patterns, and United States Vital Statistics (Parts 10-12). The focus of this module was the relationship between family instability, as measured by female-headed families, and three societal characteristics, namely underclass measures in county of residence, individual characteristics, and flows of inmates. Module B examined the effects of statewide incarceration and sentencing changes on marriage markets and family structure. Module B utilized data from the Current Population Survey for 1985 and 1994 (Part 12) and the United States Statistical Abstracts (Part 13), as well as state-level data (Parts 14 and 15) to measure the Darity-Myers sex ratio and expected welfare income. The relationship between these two factors and family structure, sentencing guidelines, and minimum sentences for drug-related crimes was then measured. Module C used data collected from inmates entering the Minnesota prison system in 1997 and 1998 (Part 16), information from the 1990 Census (Part 17), and the Minnesota Crime Survey (Part 18) to assess any connections between incarceration and family structure. Module C focused on a single state with sentencing guidelines with the goal of understanding how sentencing reforms and the impacts of the local community factors affect inmate family structure. The researchers wanted to know if the aspects of locations that lose marriageable males to prison were more important than individual inmate characteristics with respect to the probability that someone will be imprisoned and leave behind dependent children. Variables in Parts 1 and 2 document arrests by race for arson, assault, auto theft, burglary, drugs, homicide, larceny, manslaughter, rape, robbery, sexual assault, and weapons. Variables in Parts 3 and 4 document prison admissions, while variables in Parts 5 and 6 document prison releases. Variables in Part 7 include the number of households on public assistance, education and income levels of residents by race, labor force participation by race, unemployment by race, percentage of population of different races, poverty rate by race, men in the military by race, and marriage pool by race. Variables in Parts 8 and 9 include age, county, education, employment status, family income, marital status, race, residence type, sex, and state. Part 10 provides county population data. Part 11 contains two different state identifiers. Variables in Part 12 describe mortality data and welfare data. Part 13 contains data from the United States Statistical Abstracts, including welfare and poverty variables. Variables in Parts 14 and 15 include number of children, age, education, family type, gender, head of household, marital status, race, religion, and state. Variables in Part 16 cover admission date, admission type, age, county, education, language, length of sentence, marital status, military status, sentence, sex, state, and ZIP code. Part 17 contains demographic data by Minnesota ZIP code, such as age categories, race, divorces, number of children, home ownership, and unemployment. Part 18 includes Minnesota crime data as well as some demographic variables, such as race, education, and poverty ratio.

Access & Use Information

Restricted: This dataset can only be accessed or used under certain conditions. License: us-pd

Downloads & Resources


Metadata Created Date August 18, 2021
Metadata Updated Date November 28, 2023

Metadata Source

Harvested from DOJ JSON

Additional Metadata

Resource Type Dataset
Metadata Created Date August 18, 2021
Metadata Updated Date November 28, 2023
Publisher National Institute of Justice
Identifier 2864
Data First Published 2003-05-09T00:00:00
Language eng
Data Last Modified 2006-03-30T00:00:00
Rights These data are restricted due to the increased risk of violation of confidentiality of respondent and subject data.
Public Access Level restricted public
Bureau Code 011:21
Metadata Context
Metadata Catalog ID
Schema Version
Catalog Describedby
Harvest Object Id 616f2b0b-7830-4ddd-a7b0-5ba89ce55ef4
Harvest Source Id 3290e90a-116f-42fc-86ac-e65521ef3b68
Harvest Source Title DOJ JSON
Program Code 011:060
Publisher Hierarchy Office of Justice Programs > National Institute of Justice
Source Datajson Identifier True
Source Hash d6ee601f762cfef81779ea6ee8567d35a9573a48408d255d716116b9ba84b632
Source Schema Version 1.1

Didn't find what you're looking for? Suggest a dataset here.