When It Comes to Getting Locked Up, Race Means Way More Than Wealth for Black Men

When It Comes to Getting Locked Up, Race Means Way More Than Wealth for Black Men
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

There's plenty of data that suggests the United States' problem with mass incarceration is, in part, a race one. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's website, blacks make up about 1 million of the 2.3 million people in jail across the country, and a third of black men can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetimes.

Now, a new study shows that these statistics can become even more alarming when taking class into consideration.

Read more: One Chart Perfectly Captures America's Massive Prison Problem

Using data and study subjects from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Duke University researchers asked the participants, now between the ages of 51 and 59, about their net worth and whether they were currently in jail. Across the board, they found that poverty was associated with a higher likelihood of incarceration — but even so, being rich and black put participants at more of a disadvantage than being poor and white. 

"When it comes to wealth and incarceration outcomes, the disadvantages of being black or Hispanic compound the disadvantages of poverty," wrote lead researcher Khaing Zaw.

Examining wealth was illuminating for other minority groups as well, as researchers found that, while affluence still can't keep black populations out of the prison system, it did correspond to shorter jail time. And the chances of a black woman at a certain wealth level going to jail were comparable to those of white people or Hispanics. 

But for most of the U.S.'s black population, money won't buy a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

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Marie Solis

Marie is a staff writer with a focus in feminist issues. Her writing has appeared in Gothamist and the Awl. You can reach her at marie@mic.com.

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