Cumulative Risks of Paternal and Maternal Incarceration in Denmark

Christopher Wildeman, Cornell University
Lars H. Andersen, Rockwool Foundation Research Unit and University of Copenhagen

US children experience high cumulative risks of parental incarceration, but it is unclear just how high these risks are relative to those experienced by children in other countries. We use birth cohort life tables and Danish registry data to estimate the cumulative risks of paternal and maternal incarceration (including even very short jail stays of less than 24 hours) by age 14 for the 1990 Danish birth cohort, and compare these estimates to estimates of the cumulative prevalence of paternal and maternal imprisonment for the 1990 US birth cohort. Our estimates indicate that US children are 73% more likely to have their fathers imprisoned than Danish children are to have their fathers spend less than one day in jail. Results for maternal imprisonment are similar. This disparity in exposure to parental imprisonment could lead to disproportionately poor outcomes among US children relative to children growing up in other developed democracies.

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Presented in Session 39: Parental Incarceration and Child Well-Being