The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, August 08, 2004

Incarceration risk, race and class

I'd meant to mention an interesting paper, spotted over at Crooked Timber [1], providing analysis of the effect of race and educational attainment on incarceration [2].

What struck me was the following:
  1. Graphs on p7a plot the percentage of whites and blacks incarcerated and incarcerated for the first time in each year from 1974 to 1999; for whites, both lines are more or less parallel, whereas, for blacks, though the incarcerated line continues to rise throughout the 1990s, the incarcerated for the first time line falls, in steps, significantly [3] over the decade.

  2. A table on p10a shows that, comparing Federal and state prison populations in 1997, Federal prison skews Hispanic and college-educated [4].

  3. A table on p12a shows that the risk of imprisonment for blacks with some college has actually fallen slightly as between cohorts aged 30-34 in 1979 and 1999 (in all other categories, black and white, the risk rose by a factor of between 2 and 3).

The differential between incarceration rates of whites and blacks has remained relatively constant at around a factor of 5-6.

  1. Under the title Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course: Race and Class Inequality in U.S. Incarceration by Becky Pettit and Bruce Western, published in the American Sociological Review.

  2. I want to say, on the chance of being incarcerated. But I'm not clear whether that would be a legitimate inference to draw. (I suspect that when the paper uses the term risk, it is not doing so in the lay sense.)

  3. No idea whether it is statistically significant, of course.

  4. White/black/Hispanic is 33/46/17 in state, 30/38/27 in Federal. With some college are 11% of state prisoners, 27% of Federal.

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