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Invisible Men: Prison Growth and the Construction of Social Statistics

The expansion of the criminal justice system over the last three decades represents a critical institutional intervention in the lives of American families. The massive growth of the penal system is notable not only for its size, but also for its disproportionate effects on minority and low-skill men. This project examines the development of America's Demographic Charter - one designed to gauge the size, density, distribution, and characteristics of the U.S. population - and how the growth of the criminal justice system since the early 1970s contributes to its lacunae. I argue that conventional survey methods fail to account for a growing fraction of Americans currently or formerly in prison or jail effectively excluding them from policy considerations and social science research.