Monday, June 28, 2010

Another reason for the high Maori prison population?

I am struggling through a highly technical paper about the role of incarceration and child support in the labour force participation rate of young less-educated Black men.

Their labour force participation rates dropped through the 1980s and 90s, to a much greater degree than white or Hispanic rates, while over the same period their incarceration rate climbed from 2 to 5 percent and the index of child support enforcement measures taken by states climbed from 0 to almost 6.

The paper speculates about the high marginal tax rates on non-custodial fathers, in the order of 60-80 percent, and what effect this has on their labour force participation. Incarceration potential (my suggestion) is heightened by not working and in turn, incarceration lessens the chance of working after release (verified by the paper).

The increasing focus on child support enforcement was a feature of the welfare reforms with the federal government paying states bonuses if they met child support targets. Child support extractions range from 20 to 35 percent of income according to state. Our child support system, began in 1991 from memory, works in a very similar way.

I am now wondering whether the same factors are at play in NZ and account in part for the high incarceration rate for Maori. Unfortunately the IRD does not keep specific statistics on ethnicity of non-custodial parents.


Oswald Bastable said...

Which is odd, as every piece of government stationary seems to have some irrelevant ethnicity question on it!

Philbee, NZ said...

It's interesting too that back in 1972, 70,000 maori were fluent speakers of their language. Here in Maori Language Week 2010, there are less than 20,000.
Could it be argued that this apparent carelessness with their own verbal history and culture, is a good indicator of how young maori males handle societal rules...and thus comprise over half the prison population?
If that's so, then I'd suggest it's well past time that maori initiates education programmes (from the endless large tribunal hand-outs that SHOULD've been invested wisely and well), not from any more government funds, to bolster personal and ethnic PRIDE in young maori.
Only by respecting themselves first will they start to respect others, and be a positive active participant in society - instead of preying upon it.
Here endeth my tirade!

PhilBee, Auckland