The US prison boom has resulted in the mass incarceration of parents in the United States. We review recent scholarship on the relationship between parental incarceration and child inequality and social exclusion over the life course. We develop a multilevel social exclusion framework to stimulate future research on the effects of paternal and maternal incarceration. This framework is intergenerational in its focus on incarcerated parents and their children, interinstitutional in its attention to state and school regimes, and intersectional in its consideration of the role of gender and race and ethnic contingencies. It is also systemic in its focus on multiple chosen and overlapping institutional policy domains of exclusion. We address both mediators and moderators of the effects of parental incarceration on child outcomes. We emphasize the underresearched importance of meso-level (e.g., school) and macro-level (e.g., state and cross-national) exclusionary and inclusionary regimes in understanding the effects of parental incarceration. We propose hypotheses to synthesize current research on the impact of maternal and paternal incarceration on children.


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