Rapid growth in the incarceration rate over the last two decades has made prison time a
routine event in the life course of young economically disadvantaged, black and Hispanic men.
Although incarceration may now have large effects on economic inequality, only a few studies
systematically examine the labor market experiences of ex-offenders. We review the
mechanisms that plausibly link incarceration to employment and earnings and discuss the
challenges of causal inference for a highly self-selected sample of criminal offenders. There is
little consensus about the labor market effects of a variety of justice system sanctions, but there
is consistent evidence for the negative effects of prison time on earnings, particularly among
older or white-collar offenders. The labor market effects of incarceration are not yet well
understood, but prior research suggests several promising avenues for future work.