Robynn Cox

Assistant Professor of Social Work

Dr. Cox focuses on understanding the social and economic consequences of mass incarceration.

Media Contact
Robynn Cox
Phone:  +1 213.740.4705
Rank:  Tenure Track Faculty
Department:  Social Change and Innovation
Assignment:  Ground

Robynn Cox

Assistant Professor of Social Work

Dr. Cox focuses on understanding the social and economic consequences of mass incarceration.

Media Contact

Biography

Dr. Robynn Cox is an assistant professor at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and a faculty affiliate at the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging and the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. Her research interests include the fields of crime, health, labor, housing, food insecurity, and social and racial inequality. She is primarily an inequality researcher who is concerned with understanding the social and economic consequences of criminal justice policies in general, and mass incarceration in particular. Specifically, her work focuses on how to successfully transition individuals impacted by mass incarceration policies back into society using a life course approach. Her life course approach to reentry has three pillars: systemic/institutional barriers to reentry (macro), family and community (mezzo), and the individual (micro). Because of the housing barriers faced by the formerly incarcerated (and marginalized groups disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration), Cox (and colleagues) has taken the lead in developing a global definition and approach to improve the measurement of housing insecurity based on the development of the food insecurity measure. Her work purports that there are seven dimensions of housing insecurity: housing stability, housing affordability, housing safety, housing quality, neighborhood safety, neighborhood quality, and homelessness. Much like food insecurity, individuals that are income constrained will face tradeoffs across these factors to secure housing. Her work has led to the conceptualization and incorporation of a pilot housing insecurity module within the 2019 American Housing Survey (AHS). In AY 2018-2019, Cox was selected as a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute (OIGI) and a Kelso Fellow at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations’ Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing. In AY 2014-2015, she was selected as a Resource Center for Minority Aging Research Scholar (funded by the NIA) at the USC Schaeffer Center, where her research explored the impact of incarceration on health outcomes over the lifespan. Cox has received additional funding from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, the Russell Sage Foundation, the USDA Food and Nutrition Services, and the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research.

Education

Georgia State University

PhD 2009

Georgia State University

MA 2007

Duke University

BA 2002

Area of Expertise

  • Consequences of Mass Incarceration
  • Mass Incarceration
  • Social Inequality
  • Social Work Education
  • Social Work
  • Economics
  • Race and Class Inequalities

Industry Experience

  • Social Services
  • Research
  • Education/Learning
  • Health and Wellness

Articles & Publications

Identifying the Link Between Food Security and Incarceration | Southern Economic Journal
Robynn Cox, Sally Wallace
2016 Previous work has found that incarceration (defined as confinement in an adult correctional facility) has a variety of impacts on the incarcerated individual and their families including effects on employment and income, educational outcomes of children, and food insecurity (Wallace and Cox 2012). However, previous literature does not identify a causal impact of incarceration on food insecurity. From a policy perspective, identification of a causal link may aid in understanding why some affected families experience food insecurity, while similarly situated families do not...

Roadmap to a Unified Measure of Housing Insecurity | CESR-Schaeffer Working Paper No. 2016-013
Robynn Cox, Benjamin Henwood, Suzanne L Wenzel, Eric Rice
2016 We argue for the development of a unified measure of housing insecurity, which includes the creation of a consistent definition and an instrument that allows researchers to accurately measure the problem. Our survey of the literature uncovers that there are multiple terms and definitions used to describe housing insecurity. Based on our analysis, we argue for one term, housing insecurity, and we put forth a definition that captures the various dimensions of this issue...

The Effect of Private Sector Work Opportunities in Prison on Labor Market Outcomes of the Formerly Incarcerated | Journal of Labor Research
Robynn Cox
2016 This paper examines the effects of a private-sector prison work program called the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) on formal unemployment duration, duration of formal employment, and earnings of men and women released from various state prisons between 1996 and 2001. It also investigates the labor market dynamics of formerly incarcerated men and women. The program is found to increase reported earnings and formal employment on the extensive margin, with a stronger impact on the formal employment of women...

Research Focus

Publications and Presentations

Partnerships

Assistant Professor of Economics
Spelman College | 
2010-09-01

Prior to her appointment at USC, Cox was an assistant professor of economics at Spelman College.

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Post Doctoral Associate
Duke University | 
2009-01-01

Cox was a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Economics at Duke University.

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