Maternal imprisonment, economic marginality, and unmet health needs in early adulthood

Holly Foster*, John Hagan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


There is relatively little research on access to the health care needed by children whose mothers have been incarcerated, and even fewer studies of how effects of lack of access continue and cumulate as these children transition from living with parents, parent surrogates, or foster care into adulthood. We find in a nationally representative U.S. panel study (n = 9418 participants from 1995 to 2007–2008 in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent and Adult Health) that young adult children of incarcerated mothers are less likely to receive the health care they need. These effects hold in models that take into account covariates and receipt of health care in the past, a useful control for unmeasured heterogeneity. In this analysis for 2007–2008, economic marginality mediates maternal incarceration on young adult unmet health care needs. Health insurance mediates a smaller portion of this effect. The findings of this research provide important bench marks for assessing the effects of the 2010 passage and the 2013 implementation of the Affordable Care Act [ACA], as well as prospective efforts to change or repeal the ACA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-48
Number of pages6
JournalPreventive medicine
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Access to health services
  • Economic marginality
  • Parental incarceration
  • Young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology


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