By Andre Jones
There are many studies that document various aspects of racial disparity in America. From healthcare to housing, these studies illuminate various ways that Black Americans are underserved in their communities. However, one of these studies has shown where Black children are actually overserved – and it’s not a good thing.
According to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, in recent decades, financially wealthy Black children were more likely to go to prison than poor white children. According to the Washington Post, the national study began in 1979 and followed a group of young people into adulthood. The participants were asked about assets, debts, type of residence, and whether they were incarcerated.
The study grouped participants in the survey by their race and household wealth as of 1985 and cross-referenced the data with those members of the group who ended up going to prison. It was found that 10 percent of affluent Black youth between the ages of twenty and twenty-eight years of age ended up in prison as opposed to 2.7 percent of the poorest white people.
“Race trumps class, at least when it comes to incarceration,” Darrick Hamilton, one of the researchers who produced the study, told the Washington Post. It was found that only the wealthiest Black youth – those whose household annual income in 1985 exceeded $69,000 in 2012 dollars – had a slightly better chance of avoiding prison than the poorest white youth. The incarceration rate for this group was found to be 2.4 percent – a negligible .3 percent difference from their white, poor counterparts.
Co-author of the study William Darity of Duke University told eji.org that the findings, “demonstrate that wealth does not provide the same degree of insulation from imprisonment for black and Hispanic males as it does for white males.” Though it was found that Hispanics who were less affluent thirty-two years ago were also more likely to be incarcerated than their white peers in the same economic bracket, they were still less likely to end up in prison than their Black counterparts.
Among other disparities quantified by this study, it was also found that Black Americans were far less likely to accumulate wealth than their white counterparts. In 2012, for those Black U.S. citizens who had not been incarcerated, their median household income was $16,200 compared to $192,000 for whites in the same category – which means that even though a young Black person may exemplify a non-existent criminal record, they still only earned, on average, a meager 8 percent of the income of their white counterparts.