Will Raising Minimum Wage Lower Recidivism Rates?

Ex-prisoners who earn more money are less likely to return to a life of crime. As a result, it is no surprise that recent research by college professors Amanda Y. Agan of Rutgers and Michael D. Makowsky of Clemson shows that a higher minimum wage and earned income tax credits (EITCs) can make the difference between building a life outside of crime and returning to criminal activity and winding up back in jail.

Unfortunately, the United States imprisons more people than any other country, and as many as one in three American adults have some type of criminal record. If ex-prisoners who try to rebuild their lives can’t support themselves because the minimum wage jobs they are most likely to get don’t pay enough, it reduces their chances to succeed. Struggling financially leads to homelessness, a life of poverty, and increased chances of committing additional crimes that land them back in jail. As a result, while over 600,000 people are freed from prisons every year, almost one-third return within three years of being released.

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in Illinois, you are faced with a criminal record that will negatively impact you for the rest of your life and make it harder to earn a living. Due to the seriousness and complexity of Illinois criminal law, it is essential to get top-notch legal assistance.  The experienced Illinois criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances and requirements; and we will work with you to mount the most effective defense possible.  We offer a free consultation, so contact us for help today at 630-305-0222 if you have been accused of any criminal charges.

What the Study Showed

According to the study, there is a direct effect between increasing the minimum wage and lowering prison recidivism. In fact, for every dollar increase in the minimum wage, the number of those returning to prison went down by one percentage point.

The study used administrative prison release records from nearly six million offenders released between 2000 and 2014, and examined over 200 state and federal minimum wage increases, as well as 21 state earned income tax credits (EITC) programs. When the minimum wage increase went up an average of 8%, it reduced the probability that men and women would return to prison within one year by 2%. These reductions in re-conviction were observed for property and drug crimes that are usually committed to obtain money, but did not occur for criminals convicted of violent crimes.

The implied conclusion of the study is that when wages rise, it draws at least some ex-offenders into the legal labor market, and this lowers crime that serves as a source of income. The effect more than compensates for any reduced employment occurring from raising the minimum wage.

The availability of state EITC wage subsidies also reduces recidivism, but only for women since state EITCs are predominantly available to custodial parents of minor children. In states that chose to subsidize wages of adults with custody of dependents, women experienced an 11.4 percent drop in recidivism.

However, when minimum wage increased by a large amount, the picture changed. The researchers feel that if an employer has to pay $15 an hour, ex-prisoners are likely to be the ones that aren’t hired, or the first ones fired. If they can’t put food on the table, they are likely to look at criminal activity as their only option.

Unfortunately, the stigma of having a criminal record has a significant impact on a person’s employability and their lifetime earnings. For those who can find work, higher minimum wages and EITCs make it more possible to generate an income. It does not affect a violent criminal’s choice between doing legal or criminal work. The study found that increasing minimum wages did more to reduce recidivism than most programs designed to do just that.

Employment and Recidivism

Being able to find employment and earn a living is one of the most important factors that keeps people from committing further crimes. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), research that tracked formerly incarcerated people for three years showed that those with one year of employment returned to incarceration at a rate of 16 percent as opposed to the general federal recidivism rate of 52 percent. And once people stay crime-free for three to four years, their risk of recidivism is no different from that of the general population.

Unfortunately, if a formerly incarcerated person is unable to find employment after eight months, there is a 33% chance they will commit another crime landing them back behind bars. This increases to 50% after one year of unemployment and 70% after three years of being jobless. Without a stable job, many ex-prisoners may be resorting to illegal means just to survive.

Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. for a Free Consultation

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can find. The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. will examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available in every situation. We work with our clients to come up with an effective defense strategy and determine whether to take a case to trial. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties, rights, and ability to find employment.

We are aggressive litigators and will answer all your questions and make sure you fully understand the facts surrounding your case. We represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, and the greater Chicagoland area.

Delaying can only make your situation worse, so contact us and call 630-305-0222 today to schedule your free initial consultation.

Attorney Marc Wolfe

Marc Wolfe has been representing clients in criminal matters in Chicago and the entire State of Illinois for over 30 years. Mr. Wolfe has tried over 300 cases to verdict and represents clients facing investigation or prosecution for a broad range of state and federal criminal offenses, including murder, embezzlement, sexual abuse, drugs, marijuana and white collar crimes. [ Attorney Bio ]