This study investigates the link between incarceration and health behavior among a sample of young adults from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 1,670). The association is analyzed using propensity score methods and a strategic comparison group: respondents who have been convicted of crimes, but not incarcerated. Findings suggest that former inmates consume more fast food and have a higher likelihood of smoking than do similarly situated peers. These associations operate partly through increased financial strife and decreased social standing. Given the role of health behavior in predicting future health outcomes, poor health behavior may be a salient force driving health and mortality risk among the formerly incarcerated population.
Keywords: Add Health; crime; health behavior; health inequality; incarceration.
© American Sociological Association 2014.