Household Support and Social Integration in the Year After Prison

Sociological Forum

The conventional household is typically conceived as a fixed residence where married adults pool incomes and raise their children. In poor communities, however, households are often residentially unstable, fluid in composition, and economically insecure. Men and women who leave prison face extreme disadvantage, and their households are likely to shape social integration after incarceration. Drawing on qualitative and quantitative data from the Boston Reentry Study, this article describes the complex living situations of men and women newly released from prison and proposes a multifaceted concept of household support. Regression analysis with an index measuring household support shows that living in a stable well-resourced household just after prison release is associated with reduced risks of a new criminal charge, social isolation, and unemployment six to twelve months later. More than just a social unit for sampling and enumeration, the analysis suggests the household is an explanatory concept that can account for the social integration of poor, minority populations often detached from formal sources of economic and social support.