Variable measuring Incarceration Rate

Hi all,

I came across the attached figure on page 32 in Autor and Wasserman 2013 (, and I am looking for the incarceration variable used to produce the figure. It seems like the variable crime would be asking for exactly what I am interested in. However, it’s only available for 1850-1860, and it can’t be the variable the authors have used.

I found that others have used institutionalization rate (gqtype) as a proxy for incarceration in prisons and jails in the past. Could this be the variable that I am looking for? Or is there another IPUMS variable measuring incarceration that I am currently not aware of?

Any hints would be greatly appreciated.

Also, this variable only seems to be available for a very limited number of samples (see screenshot).

My best suggestion is to contact the authors with questions about their analysis. I was able to get pretty similar numbers to theirs using GQTYPE, but cannot comment on the authors assumptions and decisions when addressing the change in detail for this variable beginning in 1990 (where correctional institutions are identified separately from other institutions). I am not aware of other variables on the public use versions of the data that could be used to identify persons in correctional institutions in these years.

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Thanks a lot for your response Kari! Will follow up on this directly with the authors. It’s however already great to know that there really is no other variable other than GQTYPE that would measure a similar thing.

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