NPC Working Paper #04-5

April 2004

Declining Employment Among Young Black Less-Educated Men: The Role of Incarceration and Child Support

Harry J. Holzer, Georgetown University and Urban Institute; Paul Offner, Urban Institute; Elaine Sorensen, Urban Institute.

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Abstract

In this paper, we document the continuing decline in employment and labor force participation of black men between the ages of 16 and 34 who have a high school education or less.

We explore the extent to which these trends can be accounted for in recent years by two fairly new developments: 1) The dramatic growth in the number of young black men who have been incarcerated; and 2) Strengthened enforcement of child support policies.

We use micro-level data from the Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Groups (CPS-ORG), along with state-level data over time on incarceration rates and child support enforcement, to test these hypotheses.

Our results indicate that post-incarceration effects and child support policies both contribute to the decline in employment activity among young black less-educated men in the last two decades, especially among those aged 25-34.