Joan Hoffman



Macroeconomic Indicators and New York City Women’s Drug Arrests

Joan Hoffman analyzes the effect of macroeconomic factors and policing on the pattern of drug arrests for women. Hoffman’s general thesis is that the deterioration of economic opportunity in the legal economy increases economic activity in the illegal drug economy, resulting in a rise in drug arrest rates. The author finds that the economic disentitlement of women with low skills has a significant impact on New York City women’s illegal drug arrest rates. Indicators of both absolute and relative deprivation, including racial inequality, are significant. The powerful economic transformations of the U.S. economy beginning in the 1960s–which exacerbated structural inequalities of class, race, and gender–have had a cumulative impact on minority women, who were especially unprepared for this shift. The author reports that over 90% of the women in New York City prisons are minorities, supporting the argument that minority women are disproportionately represented among those arrested. The results of Hoffman’s study strongly suggest that reskilling the population is vital to an anticrime program. In short, helping low-skill women adjust to the structural changes in the economy is a necessary part of any program designed to alleviate illegal drug crime. It is also argued that the high costs of imprisonment limit the nation’s ability to meet the challenges of economic restructuring. As such, increasing the marketable skills of the poor is an investment in economic transformation.

arrests; drug users; New York City; surveillance; women — poor; women and economics

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 24: 1 (1997): 82-106