Christopher Wildeman

Associate Professor of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University

Areas of Expertise

  • Mass imprisonment for inequality
  • Impact of imprisonment on families
  • Child welfare
  • Child maltreatment
  • Foster care system

Key Findings

  • Fathers’ incarceration is negatively associated with a range of indicators of children’s health and well-being. Children with incarcerated fathers start school less prepared behaviorally, struggle after starting school; the association may be causal. MORE
  • Children in the northeast, south, and midwest United States are likely to experience more maltreatment than children in the west United States. MORE
  • Children in foster care also have poor educational outcomes and work records. MORE
  • Children in foster care struggle with many problems throughout their lives, including mental health, physical health, high rates of homelessness, contact with the criminal justice system, and sex work as adolescents and young adults. MORE
  • 44% of Black women and 32% of Black men have a family member imprisoned. MORE
  • About one in four women in the United States currently has a family member in prison. MORE


Christopher Wildeman, Associate Professor of Policy Analysis and Management in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University, is an expert in the consequences of mass imprisonment for inequality, with emphasis on families, health and children.

Wildeman is the co-director of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect and a faculty fellow at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, the Center for the Study of Inequality, Court-Kay-Bauer Hall and the Cornell Population Center. He is a Visiting Fellow at the Bureau of Justice Statistics and a Senior Researcher at the Rockwool Foundation Research Unit in Copehagen, Denmark. Previously, Wildeman was an Associate Professor of Sociology, a faculty fellow at the Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course and a faculty fellow at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University, as well as the co-director of the New Haven Branch of the Scholars Strategy Network. He is the 2013 recipient of the Ruth Shonle Cavan Young Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology.

He has been published in numerous academic journals and co-authored, Children of the Prison Boom: Mass Incarceration and the Future of American Inequality.

Wildeman received his Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology and Demography from Princeton University and B.A. in Philosophy, Sociology and Spanish from Dickinson College.