Graduate Student Profile: Jason Robey

Name: Jason Robey
Title: PhD Candidate
Hometown: Stewartville, Minnesota

Educational background:
B.A. Sociology of Law, Crime, and Deviance, University of Minnesota
M.S. Sociology, University of Wisconsin–Madison

What are your research interests? Current research projects?
My research covers three primary areas: 1) incarceration and inequality, 2) criminal case processing and sentencing, and 3) adolescent delinquency.

On the relationship between incarceration and inequality, my dissertation project explores declining incarceration rates in the United States, lifetime risks of incarceration, variation in these trends by race and gender, and comparisons to other major life events. With Professors Felix Elwert and Mike Massoglia, I am working on a project on the causal effect of prison admissions and releases on the national unemployment rate.

My work on criminal case processing and sentencing covers both federal and state criminal courts. In a project with Professors Mike Massoglia and Mike Light, we explore the impact of presidential nominations to the federal judiciary on sentencing outcomes. I am also working on multiple projects, with Light and fellow graduate students, using administrative datasets from Texas and California that cover all misdemeanor and felony arrests to explore disparities in criminal case processing by race and citizenship.

Related to adolescent delinquency, my master’s thesis used an instrumental variable approach to estimate a causal effect of friends’ delinquency on individual delinquency. In a collaboration with Massoglia, we further explored how adolescent peers are entangled in the life course trajectory of criminal behaviors and the implications this has for policy.

How did you first connect to your field of research?
My research interests have many origins. Personally, my family and friends have been exposed to both sides of the criminal justice system. Academically, the most interesting and engaging courses I took in my undergraduate career were the courses focused on the criminal justice system. After college I worked at the University of Minnesota Law School, where I had the opportunity to interview judges, lawyers, probation officers, individuals on probation, and individuals in prison. My approach to research has been strongly influenced by these academic and personal experiences with the criminal justice system.

What attracted you to UW–Madison? To CDE/CDHA?
During conversations with faculty and my campus visit, I found the research community at UW–Madison —and CDE/CDHA in particular—to be vibrant, rigorous, and engaging. CDE and the sociology department have a strong legacy of providing empirical evidence on the most pressing social problems in the United States and internationally. As a lifelong Minnesotan, UW–Madison was also attractive because it’s close to home.

Who do you collaborate with at CDE/CDHA?
I am working on several collaborative projects with CDE affiliates, including Professors Mike Massoglia, Mike Light, Felix Elwert, and fellow graduate students in CDE. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Light, Jingying He, and I compare the crime rates for native-born U.S. citizens, lawful noncitizens, and undocumented noncitizens. In a book chapter published with Massoglia, we argue that peer influences on delinquency are important for understanding the life course trajectory of criminal behaviors. In two papers with Light and Jungmyung Kim, one under review at the American Journal of Sociology and another under review at the American Sociological Review, we explore the role of citizenship in criminal case processing in Texas and California.

The first chapter of my dissertation project on declining incarceration rates in the United States is a collaboration with Massoglia and Light, which is currently under review at a journal and will be presented at PAA in April and ASA in August. My project with Massoglia and Light on the role of presidential appointments to the federal judiciary in sentencing outcomes was presented at conferences hosted by the American Sociological Association, the American Society of Criminology, and PAA and will be presented at the Law & Society Association conference in Portugal this summer.

What’s one thing you hope people who are exposed to your research will come away with?
I hope my work encourages people to think about the criminal justice system as a complex and evolving social institution.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea?
The Wisconsin Idea is a guiding principle in my work. I believe research should aim to positively influence the lives of all individuals in Wisconsin and beyond. Specifically, I hope my research on incarceration and inequality informs public and policy debates on the use of carceral punishments, particularly here in Wisconsin, where the black-white disparity in incarceration is one of the highest in the country.

Has CDE/CDHA impacted your graduate career?
The training program in CDE has greatly impacted my career. The demography courses provided new ways to think about and conduct research on incarceration and inequality. The Demography Seminar and the Training Seminar have exposed me to cutting-edge research in a wide variety of fields and opportunities to meet with the authors of this research. Finally, as former RA and current predoctoral Trainee, CDE has provided funding to support my research endeavors.

Hobbies/other interests:
In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, hiking in the woods, watching sports, playing basketball, and discovering new music.