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While studies have found correlations between rates of incarceration and STIs, few have explored the mechanisms linking these phenomena. This qualitative study examines how male incarceration rates and sex ratios influence perceived partner availability and sexual partnerships for heterosexual Black women. Data were analysed using grounded theory. In Allentown, male incarceration reduced the of available men; participants largely viewed men available for partnerships as being of an undesirable quality.

The and desirability of men impacted on the nature of partnerships such that they were shorter, focused on sexual activity, and may be with higher risk sexual partners e. In Blackrock, marriage rates contributed to the shortage of desirable male partners.

By highlighting the role that the quantity and quality of male partners has on shaping sexual partnerships, this study advances current understandings of how incarceration and sex ratios shape HIV- and STI-related risk.

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In that same year, the rate of gonorrhoea among Black women was The USA incarcerates more adults per capita than any other country in the world, however, the burden falls disproportionately on Black men The Sentencing Project Notably, Black men have substantially higher incarceration rates than Black women: inthere were roughly 21 incarcerated Black men for every incarcerated Black woman Carson Gender differences in incarceration rates contribute to sex ratio imbalances already evident among Black adults caused in part, by increased Black male mortality Geronimus : in there were roughly 91 Black men living in the community i.

Census Bureau — Several quantitative studies have found that geographic areas with higher incarceration rates have higher and increasing rates of STIs, including HIV Thomas and Sampson ; Thomas and Torrone ; Thomas et al.

We were able to identify only one other study that empirically examined the pathways through which high male incarceration rates and the subsequent low sex ratio i. Most existing studies examine a shortage of men in a variety of contexts e. Existing studies suggest that male shortage is directly related to men having multiple and concurrent or overlapping sex partners Adimora et al. While these studies inform current understandings of the pathways through which imbalanced sex ratios impact sexual partnerships, the mechanisms through which high male incarceration rates and male shortage together influence the nature and type of partnerships among Black women warrants further attention.

The purpose of this paper is to examine and compare the unique processes through which rates of male incarceration and low male to female sex ratios influence perceived partner availability and the nature and structure of partnerships from the perspectives of heterosexual Black women. This study sampled two units of analysis: census tracts within the Atlanta metropolitan statistical area MSA and women living within these census tracts. We sought to study women living in two types of census tracts in the Atlanta MSA: one tract that had a high male incarceration rate and low male: female sex ratio and another tract that had a relatively low male incarceration rate and more balanced sex ratio.

Sex ratios were calculated using data from — American Community Survey U. We identified census tracts that had either low less than. Furthermore, we examined the rates of male incarceration in these two groups of census tracts in order to distinguish one as low and the other as high.

In line with theoretical sampling methods Marshallwe sought to create a sample of women that varied with regard to characteristics that might be salient to the relationships among sex ratios and the nature and structure of partnerships including: age and whether the participant cared for. After recruitment began, we expanded our sampling criteria to include women who engaged in transactional sex relationships and whether the participant had a partner who was incarcerated during their relationship. Eligibility was assessed through a brief screening process. Women were recruited using passive and snowball recruitment methods.

Flyers describing the study were posted at various organisations, businesses, and places of worship in each tract. Referral chains were limited to three study participants in order to prevent a large proportion of participants coming from one social network. Neighbourhoods were defined subjectively: participants described the boundaries of the geographic area around the place where they lived, including local places where the participants ate, shopped, and spent their free time.

Participants from Allentown described neighbourhood boundaries that largely aligned with administratively defined boundaries. Neighbourhood boundaries described by Blackrock participants varied; some participants perceived their neighbourhood to be limited to the immediate area around their street or subdivision while others described an area beyond than the administratively defined boundaries.

Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. After the interview a short interviewer-administered questionnaire was used to assess sociodemographic characteristics of the study sample. Census Bureau — to assess characteristics of the census tracts. These were: percentage of residents living in poverty, median household income, and median age. An initial codebook was developed based on the semi-structured interview guide and interview transcripts. To improve inter-rater reliability, two initial interviews were open coded by the first author ED and a co-author LO.

In order to improve reliability and to ensure adequate inter-coder agreement, coding patterns were compared and the codebook was refined until consensus was reached. To code for themes unique to participants in Blackrock, the codebook was revisited and revised when coding the first three interviews from that tract.

The remaining interviews were double-coded in a similar fashion and the codebook was reviewed and revised throughout the analysis process. Memos developed and highlighted connections between and sub. Quotations were compiled to illustrate concepts and relationships pertinent to core. During the axial and selective coding process, findings from each census tract were compared to identify similarities and differences in the mechanisms through which local male incarceration rates and male shortage influenced perceived partner availability and the nature and structure of partnerships.

Descriptive statistics were generated for quantitative data using SAS version 9. While census tracts were selected based on sex ratios and male incarceration rates, the sampled census tracts also differed across a of other sociodemographic characteristics. In Blackrock, less than one 0. Notably, residents in Allentown were more impoverished Source: U. Thirty-three women took part in the study; 20 from Allentown and 13 from Blackrock. Fewer participants were interviewed from Blackrock because saturation of themes was reached earlier in the data collection process. The median age of participants in both census tracts was approximately 30 years Table 2.

Participants in both census tracts reported having at least one primary sexual partner i. Generally, participants from Allentown reported having riskier sexual partners e. We identified three major pathways through which male incarceration rates and sex ratios contribute to HIV- and STI-related risk.

Another aspect of the social environment, local marriage rates, also contributed to low local sex ratios. Processes through which male incarceration and sex ratios influence sexual risk of heterosexual African American women in two Atlanta census tracts: one with high rates of male incarceration and an imbalanced sex ratio Allentown and one with a lower rate of male incarceration and a sex ratio close to 1. Consistent with data from the GA DOC, all Allentown participants reported that a large of local men were incarcerated.

They recognised the influences of individual-level e. Participants were most likely to mention the high prevalence of drug-related and violent crimes occurring in their neighbourhood. Although participants in Allentown widely acknowledged that the neighbourhood was crime-ridden, the constant police presence was believed to make it easy for men in the neighbourhood to be detained or arrested for any illegal activity or for engaging in daily activities e.

Shantele, Allentown resident, 19 years. Lastly, nearly all participants described the lack of economic opportunities, a consequence of both the economic downturn and employment restrictions against individuals with a criminal background, as a factor leading local men to commit crimes. Men were believed to commit crimes to augment income earned from low-wage positions or to have direct access to basic necessities including food and shelter. Said one participant:. Keisha, Allentown resident, 39 years. Participants stated that in addition to having large s of local men behind bars at any given time, men were also likely to be incarcerated repeatedly.

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Having a history of incarceration limited men from finding legal employment, and instead they would continue engaging in activities that led to their initial incarceration. Allentown is located in an urban area within walking distance to a local jail; a factor that contributed to the of local men with a criminal record. Recently released men who had nowhere to go, or who lacked the financial resources to return to their own neighbourhoods, could walk easily to this neighbourhood.

Many formerly incarcerated men were thought to the criminal activities that originally led to their incarceration. Despite having lower rates of incarceration, roughly half of the participants from Blackrock felt that a large of men from their neighbourhood were incarcerated.

Similar to Allentown, participants in Blackrock perceived local male incarceration rates to be the result of overly-aggressive law enforcement practices and crimes being committed due to a lack of economic opportunity. Unlike Allentown, however, the types of crimes committed in Blackrock were largely described as non-violent. The remaining participants believed that few men were incarcerated in their neighbourhood.

These women described local men as hardworking, gainfully employed, or in search of legal employment opportunities:. I notice that they cut grass, they find things to do. Jada, Blackrock resident, 38 years. There were subtle differences between Blackrock participants who believed there to be lower rates of male incarceration and those who believed their local male incarceration rates to be high.

A few of the women who believed that incarceration rates were low had lived in the neighbourhood for several years and felt that local male incarceration rates had dropped ificantly during that time. The majority of Blackrock women who believed incarceration rates to be lower, however, moved to the area from a neighbourhood where crime and incarceration rates were higher.

The majority of women from Allentown believed that there were more women than men living in the neighbourhood. Participants almost exclusively linked the lack of local men to two factors: incarceration and death. One participant explained local sex ratios in the following way:. Aliyah, Allentown resident, 31 years. A small minority of women felt that despite high local rates of male incarceration, men routinely cycled in and out of their neighbourhood from jail or prison; resulting in a constant, albeit variable, source of male partners.

One participant noted that:. So it is like always a balance Zari, Allentown resident, 24 years. The majority of women from Blackrock described the sex ratio in their neighbourhood as either being equitable or as having more women than men. Women in both subsets reflected on male shortage in Atlanta and Georgia more broadly. However, only women who perceived their neighbourhoods to have more women than men used this knowledge to inform their understanding of local sex ratios.

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Women in this subset identified more mechanisms through which they found potential male partners e. With the exception of one woman, participants from Blackrock who perceived there to be a low local sex ratio were similar to those from Allentown; citing male incarceration as one of the biggest contributing factors to male shortage. Only one additional factor, the presence of publicly-subsidised housing, was described as contributing to the local sex ratio, by increasing the of women living in the neighbourhood.

Regardless of their perception of the local sex ratio, women in Allentown largely agreed that most available men were undesirable. Participants defined undesirable men as men who were unemployed or unmotivated to work, immature, not interested in a committed relationship, or who were physically, verbally, or sexually abusive. Notably, one characteristic that was not viewed as a deterrent was having a history of incarceration.

Many participants felt that because so many men had criminal histories that if they wanted any type of romantic or sexual relationship that they could not exclude men with a history of incarceration. Women in Allentown, however, did perceive low local male to female sex ratios to have a greater impact on the availability of certain groups of men. Specifically, women described a paucity of desirable available men in their age range.

Younger men were perceived as being undesirable because they were involved in criminal and violent behaviour and thought to be selfish i. Due to this perception, many women sought out older partners. Dana, Allentown resident, 19 years. While older men were generally sought out as romantic partners some women believed that they were not as readily available as younger men; older men were believed to live on the periphery of the neighbourhood.

Older men were perceived to only make themselves available to younger women living in the neighbourhood. Partnerships between older men and younger women were viewed as fulfilling a specific purpose for both partners. For young women, older men provided financial stability and material support; for older men, young women provided sexual activity.

Due to these experiences and perceptions, women were hesitant to engage in sexual relationships with men from the neighbourhood. Regardless of their perception of local sex ratios, women in Blackrock were similar to women in Allentown in their perception of the availability of desirable men for partnerships. Women in this tract described men who were available for partnerships locally as being of a lower quality. The characteristics that made men undesirable to women in Allentown were echoed by women in Blackrock e.

Women in Blackrock differed from women in Allentown, however, with regards to their perception of the factors that reduced the of desirable available male sexual partners.

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