IRP20-01: Criminal Justice Involvement and Well-Being in Old Age
Center for Financial Security
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This paper uses data from the Criminal Justice Administrative Records Systems linked with survey and administrative data sources from the U.S. Census Bureau to provide the first evidence on the looming retirement crisis stemming from the aging generations of Americans who have been increasingly impacted by criminal justice policies like mass incarceration. First, we measure the share of current retirees with criminal records, and provide projections of how these rates among retiring cohorts will increase through 2050. We find that approximately 10% of men at age 62 have faced a felony criminal charge, and this will grow by 70% over the next two decades, peaking among cohorts retiring around 2040. Second, we characterize the living circumstances of those with criminal histories approaching retirement. In spite of almost a decade of criminal desistance on average, this population exhibits serious economic vulnerability, higher disability rates, and greater detachment from kinship networks, factors that put these individuals at risk in retirement. Current data indicate a growing reliance on safety net programs such as the Supplemental Security Income program, for which eligibility does not depend on work history.
Doleac, Jennifer. (2020). Criminal Justice Involvement and Well-Being in Old Age. Retirement & Disability Research Center. https://cfsrdrc.wisc.edu/publications/working-paper/irp20-01