Christopher Wildeman

Professor of Policy Analysis and Management, Director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, Cornell University

Connect with Christopher

About Christopher

Wildeman’s research investigates the impact of mass imprisonment on family life, and considers the consequences for inequalities in health, mortality, and life expectancy.

In the News

Research discussed by Cornell University, in "Solitary Confinement Significantly Increases Post-Prison Death Risk," EurekAlert, February 5, 2020.
Research discussed by Lori Sonken, in "ISS Project Examines Reasons for U.S. Mass Incarceration," Cornell Chronicle, September 23, 2015.
Quoted by Timothy Williams in "Report Details Economic Hardships for Inmate Families," New York Times, September 15, 2015.
Research discussed by John Tierney, in "Prison and the Poverty Trap," New York Times, February 18, 2013.


"Despair by Association? The Mental Health of Mothers with Children by Recently Incarcerated Fathers" (with Jason Schnittker and Kristin Turney). American Sociological Review (forthcoming).
Demonstrates that having a romantic partner incarcerated damages women’s health, as it creates additional stress for already distressed poor, minority women.
"State-Level Variation in the Cumulative Prevalence of Child Welfare System Contact, 2015–2019" (with Youngmin Yi, Frank Edwards, Hedwig Lee, Jane Waldfogel, and Natalia Emanuel). Children and Youth Services Review 147 (2023).

Provides new estimates of spatial and racial/ethnic variation in children’s lifetime risks of child welfare system involvement, as well as relative risks of these events. Discusses In the U.S., state-level investigation risks ranged from 14% to 63%, confirmed maltreatment risks from 3% to 27%, foster care placement risks from 2% to 18%, and risks of parental rights termination from 0% to 8%, with great racial/ethnic variation in all of these.

"Paternal Jail Incarceration and Birth Outcomes: Evidence from New York City, 2010–2016 Youngmin Yi, Joseph Kennedy, Cynthia Chazotte, Mary Huynh, Yang Jiang & Christ" (with Youngmin Yi, Joseph Kennedy, Cynthia Chazotte, Mary Huynh, and Yang Jiang). Maternal and Child Health Journal 25 (2021): 1221–1241 .

Examines population-level associations between paternal jail incarceration during pregnancy and infant birth outcomes in New York City. Mentions after accounting for parental sociodemographic characteristics, maternal health behaviors, and maternal health care access, paternal incarceration during pregnancy remains associated with late preterm birth, low birthweight, small size for gestational age, and NICU admission.

"Mental and Physical Health of Children in Foster Care" (with Kristin Turney). Pediatrics (2016).

Finds that children in foster care are in poor mental and physical health relative to children in the general population, children across specific family types, and children in economically disadvantaged families. Shows that children adopted from foster care, compared with children in foster care, have significantly higher odds of having some health problems. Concludes that children in foster care are a vulnerable population in poor health, partially as a result of their early life circumstances.

"Racial Inequalities in Connectedness to Imprisoned Individuals in the United States" (with Tyler McCormick and Hedwig Lee). Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race 12, no. 2 (2015): 269-282.

Argues that that with high rates of connectedness to prisoners and the vast racial inequality in them, it is likely that mass imprisonment has fundamentally reshaped inequality not only for the adult men for whom imprisonment has become common, but also for their friends and families.

"Studying Health Disparities by Including Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Individuals" (with Emily A. Wang). JAMA 305 (2011): 1708-1709.
Our estimates of health disparities are seriously biased and understandings of the causes of various diseases are potentially distorted by failure to include prisoners and former prisoners in social statistics and studies of the development of diseases.
"Mass Imprisonment and Racial Disparities in Childhood Behavioral Problems" (with Sara Wakefield). Criminology and Public Policy 10 (2011): 791-817.
Demonstrates that racial disparities in childhood behavioral problems would be significantly smaller, if not for the impact of the recent prison boom.
"Paternal Incarceration and Children’s Physically Aggressive Behaviors: Evidence from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study" Social Forces 89 (2010): 285-310.
An incarcerated father increases physically aggressive behaviors by boys, leading to possible intergenerational transmission of contact with the criminal justice system.
"Incarceration in Fragile Families" (with Bruce Western). Future of Children 20, no. 2 (2010): 157-177.
Reviews the research on the consequences of incarceration for families.
"Parental Imprisonment, the Prison Boom, and the Concentration of Childhood Disadvantage" Demography 46, no. 2 (2009): 265-280.
Shows that black children are much more likely than white children to experience the disadvantage of imprisoned fathers, especially black children whose fathers did not finish high school.