Sticky Stigma: The Impact of Incarceration on Perceptions of Personality Traits and Deservingness
Stigma is often cited as a mechanism driving the consequences of incarceration for formerly incarcerated people and their families. Few studies, however, provide quantitative evidence of the nature and strength of stigma stemming from direct and indirect interaction with jails. In this article, we use an experimental vignette design to make two contributions. First, we use two nonincarceration control groups that allow us to differentiate the stigma attached to incarceration relative to one condition that is not stigmatized (colorblindness) from another that is (drug addiction). Second, we test whether having a partner or family member who has been incarcerated in jail generates stigma. We find that having a formerly incarcerated relative negatively impacts perceptions of personality traits, financial deservingness, and parenting quality. We also show that the stigmatized control condition is comparable with the prior incarceration of a male relative, but more favorable than one's own prior incarceration, indicating unique incarceration stigma. These findings have implications for our understanding of social inequality because they demonstrate how members of marginalized groups who are most likely to experience incarceration or have an incarcerated loved one continue to face informal social exclusion and the attendant consequences long after the formal punishment.
Brew, B; Alani, F; Li, A; Wildeman, C
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