Abstract: I estimate the impact of employment opportunities on recidivism among 1.7 million offenders released from a California prison between 1993 and 2008. The institutional structure of the California criminal justice system as well as location, skill, and industry‐specific job accession data provide a unique framework for identifying a causal effect of job availability on criminal behaviour. I find that increases in construction and manufacturing opportunities at the time of release are associated with significant reductions in recidivism. Other types of opportunities, including those characterised by lower wages that are typically accessible to individuals with criminal records, do not influence recidivism.
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