Examining World-System and Income Inequality Effects on Incarceration Rates: A Cross-National Study

by Burle Steelman

Institution: University of Oklahoma
Year: 2016
Keywords: World-Systems Theory Income Inequality Incarceration Rates Cross-National
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2085084
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/11244/41709


Abstract Numerous studies find a positive relationship between income inequality and incarceration rates within countries. Other scholars note inequality, as an explanatory variable for differences in incarceration rates, lacks statistical significance. I confirm the positive relationship between increased inequality and increased incarceration rates in initial analyses, but find when tested with additional explanatory variables, income inequality loses its significance as a predictor of incarceration rates. In this study, I examine this relationship to provide additional context for the circumstances under which inequality influences incarceration rates, and when other factors attenuate the effect of inequality. Not only do I control for crime rates, using homicide rates, but include a control for drug offense rates not noted in earlier studies. Given the paucity of research regarding world-systems theory and criminological outcomes, I examine the role of position in the world-system on incarceration rates and other cogent variables. Results indicate no direct relationship between world systems position (WSP) and incarceration rates but indicate strong relationships between WSP and homicide rates and drug offense rates. This cross-national study examines correlates of rates of incarceration for 77 countries from 1994 through 2008. I provide a description of trends in incarceration rates, inequality, wealth, democracy, urbanization, homicide rates, drug offense rates, and other societal measures over the past 15 years. Global trends are broken down comparatively by region. Advisors/Committee Members: Burns, Thomas (advisor), Damphousse, Kelly (committee member), Sharp, Susan (committee member), Clark, Robert (committee member), Laird, Susan (committee member).