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Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Prior research suggests a correlation between incarceration and marital dissolution, although questions remain as to why this association exists. Is it the stigma associated with "doing time" that drives couples apart? Or is it simply the duration of physical separation that leads to divorce? This research utilizes data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) and the Survey of Officer and Enlisted Personnel to shed light on these questions. The findings generally support a separation explanation of the incarceration-divorce relationship. Specifically, the data show that exposure to incarceration has no effect on marital dissolution after duration of incarceration is taken into account. In addition, across both datasets we find that individuals who spend substantial time away from spouses are at higher risk of divorce. The findings point to the importance of spousal separation for understanding the incarceration-marital dissolution relationship. Moreover, and in contrast to settings in which stigma appears quite salient (e.g., labor markets), our results suggest that the shared history and degree of intimacy among married partners may weaken the salience of the stigma of incarceration. Findings are discussed in the context of a burgeoning body of work on the collateral consequences of incarceration and have implications for the growing pool of men in American society returning from prison.