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Authors: Gottlieb, Aaron
Advisors: McLanahan, Sara
Contributors: Sociology Department
Subjects: Sociology
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Currently, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of all large countries in the world. Beginning in the 1970s, the U.S. criminal justice system underwent a dramatic transformation in its sentencing practices that is largely responsible for today’s historic levels of incarceration. In this dissertation, I provide evidence on two questions: 1) What are the implications of the growth in incarceration; and 2) Can rhetoric be used to increase public support for rolling back U.S. incarceration rates? The first two empirical chapters of this dissertation provide evidence addressing the first question. In the first empirical chapter, I use data from 15 advanced democratic countries from 1971-2010 to explore whether cross-national variation in incarceration rates contributes to cross-national variation in relative poverty rates. The results suggest that there is no average association, but this obscures the fact the association is contingent on a country’s level of welfare state generosity and female employment. In the second empirical chapter, I explore whether U.S children who experience the incarceration of household members are at greater risk of experiencing a premarital first birth. The results suggest that experiencing household incarceration in early adolescence is associated with an increase in a child’s risk of growing up to have a premarital first birth, particularly when a father or extended household member is incarcerated. In the final empirical chapter, I conduct an online experiment exploring whether message frames influence public attitudes towards policies that would eliminate the use of incarceration for select nonviolent offenses. The results suggest that appeals to self-interest tend to be more effective at shifting public support in favor of reform than other types of rhetoric and that appeals to fairness can be effective if they emphasize retributive fairness, rather than distributive fairness. Taken together, this dissertation adds to the growing evidence that incarceration has had significant negative consequences for U.S. society and that rhetoric may be an important tool for activists and policymakers who want to reform the criminal justice system.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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