WORK AND POST-PRISON ADJUSTMENT: THE ROLE OF EMPLOYMENT IN REDUCING ECONOMIC AND EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS FACED BY EX-FELONS
That work is important for the mental health of men and women appears obvious. Social scientists have argued, with limited empirical support, that employment provides both economic and "extra-economic" benefits--the latter category including such benefits as social status, social contact, and psychologically rewarding activity. While it seems obvious that jobs in the middle and upper status range are sources of various "extra-economic" benefits, this is less obvious at the lower margins where jobs are less socially desirable.
The analyses described here examine the economic and extra-economic benefits of employment among one prominent portion of the marginal labor force--ex-felons. Each year about 100,000 state prison inmates are set free to fend for themselves. Their low levels of education and job skills, coupled with their status as ex-convicts, make them undesirable employees and this is evident in the difficulties they have finding and sustaining work after release.
Drawing on data from TARP, a field experiment involving about 2000 ex-felons released in Texas and Georgia in 1976, a non-recursive model of the functions of employment was formulated and tested. Using three stage least squares, employment was found to reduce emotional stress among ex-felons by providing both economic and "extra-economic" benefits. Furthermore, there was some feedback effect in that emotional stress was found to reduce subsequent work activity, in turn further aggrevating the stressful circumstances faced by the TARP ex-felons.