A Comparison of the Female and Male Racial Disparities in Imprisonment
69 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2020
Date Written: May 21, 2020
We examine the behavior of the incarceration rate and the racial disparity in imprisonment for black women and compare this to the results for black men over the period 1978-2016. At the beginning of our sample, the racial disparity is high and of similar magnitude for both groups. Black women and black men both experience a large run-up in incarceration between 1978-1999, where this run-up can be entirely explained by the increase in overall incarceration in the United States during this period. Black women and black men both experience a decrease in incarceration between 1999 and 2016, but the decline for women is much steeper. The decline in incarceration for black women is entirely explained by a decline in the racial disparity, where for men, a decline in the disparity and a decline in the overall male incarceration rate are both important. At the state level, there are frequent upturns in the racial disparity in the 1980s for both black women and black men, followed by frequent downturns in the 1990s. The data provide no prima facie evidence that the 1994 Crime Bill exacerbated the racial disparity in imprisonment. By the end of the sample, the racial disparity for females is 1.8, and the disparity for males is 5.2, where this disparity measures the per capita black imprisonment rate divided by the per capita white imprisonment rate for each group.
Keywords: racial disparity, imprisonment, gender
JEL Classification: D63, K14,
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation