Christopher Wildeman

Associate Professor of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University
Areas of Expertise:
  • Antipoverty Policy
  • Children & Families
  • Criminal Justice
  • Race & Ethnicity

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.



"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.

"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.

In the News

Christopher Wildeman's research on the influence that confinement conditions have on prisoners, their families and communities discussed in Lori SonkenChristopher Wildeman, "ISS Project Examines Reasons for U.S. Mass Incarceration," Cornell Chronicle, September 23, 2015.
Christopher Wildeman quoted on racial inequalities in connectedness to imprisoned individuals in Timothy Williams, "Report Details Economic Hardships for Inmate Families" New York Times, September 15, 2015.
Christopher Wildeman's research on the effects of parental incarceration on children discussed in John TierneyChristopher Wildeman, "Prison and the Poverty Trap," New York Times, February 18, 2013.