“Newark, the largest city in the state, with a population of more than 280,000, reportedly has the highest per capita number of parolees of any U.S. city.”
Akil S. Roper, “Prisoner Re-entry in Newark: It Takes a Community” (Star Ledger)

The inordinate number of parolees in Newark reflects the increased concentration of economic challenges in this area.  The legal barriers and stigma that follow people returning home to New Jersey neighborhoods from incarceration leads to a cycle of poverty, recidivism and lack of economic opportunity for individuals and their communities as a whole.  To better understand how to address these economic barriers, NJISJ has initiated a study of the impact of a concentrated population of ex-offenders on the labor market and economic growth in Newark.  The project activities fall into two categories: a labor market study and an investigation into the location decisions of employers.

Based on current scholarship and our programmatic experience, we hypothesize that a large group of adult males with criminal records who are statutorily barred from certain areas of employment, and face discrimination in the job market generally, depress the average wage for the city, which in turn negatively impacts property values, consumer spending, tax revenues and decisions by firms to locate in New Jersey neighborhoods. In addition to understanding the labor market effects of a concentration of ex-offenders, we will investigate the factors that impact a company’s decision to locate or expand in urban areas in New Jersey.

To explore firms’ locational and hiring procedures, we will deploy in depth firm surveys with businesses that have located in Newark and the surrounding suburbs or considered Newark but chose a different location.  To conduct these studies, we have partnered with researchers from Rutgers University, including Dr. William Rodgers, former Chief Economist for the U.S. Department of Labor, and Dr. John Chaisson, Director at the Thought Leadership Institute and co-organizer of the recent forum on the Next Great Competitive Workforce at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.