The Converging Proportions of the U.S. Adult Population in the Military and in Prison, 1960 to 2010

Sanjiv Gupta, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Jennifer H. Lundquist, University of Massachusetts

Quantitative research on the labor market in the U.S. tends to exclude the institutionalized population, particularly those in the armed forces and prison. We treat these institutions explicitly as alternatives to civilian employment, and examine changes over time in the distribution of the U.S. population among them. We find that the proportion of the adult population in the military declined steadily from 1960 to 2010, while that in prison crept up over the same period. Indeed the two proportions have converged, even crossed over, in recent years. Together the military and prison now incorporate more than 1 percent of the base adult population, about 3 million adults. This trend may have profound implications for the labor market in the coming years, as well as for government spending on programs related to unemployment. In the final paper we will disaggregate the trends by race, gender and state, and present time series analyses.

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Presented in Poster Session 3