Criminal Embeddedness and Non-Criminal Adult Outcomes: Are the Effects of Embeddedness Indelible?

Kent R. Kerley, Mississippi State University

With his concept of criminal embeddedness, Hagan provides an important linkage between the stratification and criminological literatures. Hagan's work demonstrates how contact with the criminal justice system impacts both criminal and non-criminal life domains. Nearly all research on this topic shows a continuous deleterious effect of criminal embeddeness on many adult outcomes including educational attainment, income, and occupational prestige. This effect is often described as "cumulative disadvantage." However, the notion of cumulative disadvantage has been subjected only to limited empirical testing and existing studies rely almost exclusively on small, high-risk samples. Using data on 4,446 federal offenders, I investigate whether the effects of criminal embeddedness are indelible, or whether they decay with age and time free from the criminal justice stystem. Results provide only partial support for the notion of cumulative disadvantage. Specifically, the effects of age on onset decay with age, but total number of prior arrests and time incarcerated have continuous deleterious effects on financial well-being and occupational stability. These results are consistent for whites and blacks.

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Updated 05/20/2006