Why Do People under Community Supervision Work and Earn So Little? And What Can Policy Do to Increase Their Employment and Earnings?

AuthorHarry J. Holzer
Published date01 May 2022
Date01 May 2022
Subject MatterOvercoming Barriers to Living-Wage Employment
46 ANNALS, AAPSS, 701, May 2022
DOI: 10.1177/00027162221109992
Why Do People
Work and Earn
So Little? And
What Can
Policy Do to
Increase Their
and Earnings?
1109992ANN The Annals of the American AcademyEmployment and Earnings Under Communty Supervision
In this article, I review what we know about the impacts
of felony convictions and incarceration on later employ-
ment and earnings, particularly for those under com-
munity supervision. I then discuss what employers and
public policymakers can do to improve these outcomes.
First, I review the basic empirical facts on the employ-
ment and earnings of returning citizens, various
hypotheses that could explain these facts, and the avail-
able evidence that support those hypotheses. Second, I
review why people under community supervision may
have either similar or different employment outcomes
from those of returning citizens more broadly. Third, I
consider the perspectives of employers and why it
might be in their interests to reduce hiring penalties
associated with earlier incarceration (especially in tight
labor markets). Fourth, I consider what we know about
policies to reduce these penalties and improve out-
comes. In sum, I argue that both moral and economic
arguments exist for a general reduction of hiring penal-
ties that would improve employment outcomes.
Keywords: parole and probation; returning citizens;
employment and earnings; earnings;
At any moment in time, over 4 million Americans
are under community supervision—that is,
either on probation or parole after being
incarcerated. And like so many other “return-
ing citizens” or people with felony convictions,
their employment and earnings rates are quite
Harry J. Holzer is the John LaFarge SJ Professor of
Public Policy at the McCourt School of Public Policy,
Georgetown University. He is also a nonresident
senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings
Institution, an institute fellow at the American Institutes
for Research, and a former chief economist at the U.S.
Department of Labor. He was also a founding director
of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality.
His research interests include low-wage labor markets,
the employment challenges of Black men and youth,
community colleges and the labor market, as well as
employment and training policy more broadly.
Correspondence: hjh4@georgetown.edu

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