Race Inequality in America by Graph, from Crime Sentencing to Income

(By Juan Cole)

Most death sentences are handed out for killing white people, even though African-Americans make up 50% of murder victims (they are only 12% of the population).

So if an African-American male had fired ten shots into the SUV of some white suburban kids playing their music too loud, killing one of them, I think we all know there would have been a murder conviction and almost certainly a death penalty imposed.

In case of conviction for murder, African-Americans are 38% more likely to be handed the death penalty than members of other racial groupings.

reprinted graphs: :

88% of African-Americans in a 2013 Pew poll said that there was “a lot” (46%) or “some” (42% ) discrimination against them.

Only 57% of whites agreed, and only 16% of whites said there is “a lot” of discrimination against African-Americans:

Average household net worth of whites: $110,000.

Average household net worth of African-Americans: $5000

The wealth gap between white and African-American families tripled between 1980 and 2009, according to the Century Foundation:

1 in every 15 African American men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men

Or consider it this way

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21 Responses

  1. Fortunately, President Obama has assured us that, “No one is above the law” so we can rest assured Justice will prevail during this watch. Only those who are more equal than others will get away with high crimes and misdemeanors.

    • Equality before the law is what the Constitution promises us.
      But that same Constitution enshrines loosely bridled individualism and competition and therefore guarantees economic inequality. So the use of the latter term when speaking of relative income, net worth, etc., is a bit suspect. We don’t do economic “equality” in the U.S.

      I’m convinced that the gigantic disproportion in the rate of incarceration is more than anything a function of poverty which in turn is directly related to crime rates. People who exercise the sacred right to sleep under bridges risk the commission of far more serious crimes than those with jobs and a nest eggs. They are especially sensitive to downturns in the economy. Would that there were a graph depicting relative desperation levels.

      The legal system is a human institution, not a machine. It has faults. It also faces realities not so well understood, especially in densely packed urban areas where Blacks are penned into ghettos by their economic situation. If the economic circumstances of African-Americans and European-Americans were reversed one can hardly doubt that there would be a giant spike in the crime rates of the latter.

      So the primary problem whether we like to hear it or not is one of social engineering though I have no idea as to how it can be done. We tried the welfare solution for a long time. We still have some affirmative action programs. I used to wonder about a housing approach to breaking up the ghettos and dispersal, but have concluded that it is impossible.

      Black on Black crime is an immense problem which urban judges have in the backs of their minds regarding sentencing. How do the interests of middle and lower middle class ghetto residents factor in against the background of attempts to pacify the Baghdad of South Chicago?

      • I was always curious if there is black-on-black crime there must be white-on-white crime, Latino-on-Latino crime and Asian-on-Asian crime. Why don’t we hear about any of the aforementioned? It is reported as a crime. Is there something special about so-called black-on-black crime? Crime no matter who commits it and no matter who it is committed against is a crime.

    • I couldn’t agree more. It seems we live in a society that values those of a higher profile and wealth much more than that of the common man, it truly upsets me, But I suppose it’s liberty and justice for most.

  2. Pete

    Private contractors hired to construct prisons. Build communities to protect the wealthy. Corporations win. Works everywhere. Sad

    • The question is pedagogical.

      Many people enter voting booths without the slightest understanding that they are voting on matters related to their personal economic futures and those of their families and class. Many of them think that elections are about the Second Coming, the Second Amendment and abortion and supporting Israel because of having been told that it’s the quickest way to get to Heaven (and to send most Jews to Hell).

      So how are the Great Unwashed to be convinced to open their minds. And who is to teach them?

  3. Wealth inequality. Highly unequal legal representation for accused. Police know where to target. Criminality born of frustration from the above. Or just say extreme racism, fill in the blanks with corruption. Thanks for statistics.

  4. There are other variables other than discrimination that may be at play here.

    One is that the death penalty is not even available or is rarely imposed in many states that have high percentage of white population e.g. Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Washington, Oregon and Utah.

    Secondly, blacks very often have inadequate legal representation due to poverty.

    Thirdly, the rate of criminal recidivism is higher among the black population and this is a legitimate basis for a judge or jury to impose the death penalty.

    It also should be noted that areas of high black populations e.g. Detroit, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, the government is often dominated by liberal Democrats at the prosecutorial and judicial levels and this leads to leniency in prosecutorial discretion at the charging and plea-bargaining levels and also leniency by judges during pre-trial rand trial proceedings and during sentencing.

    • “One is that the death penalty is not even available or is rarely imposed in many states that have high percentage of white population e.g. Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Washington, Oregon and Utah.”

      Permit me to add a little Michigan chauvanism. We have not executed anyone since ending capital punishment in roughly the first third of the 19th Century. I recall one effort to reinstate it, but it gained little traction. By and large we seem to be content not to be tainted by killing people in response to them having killed other people. We have’t succumbed to the voyeurism stimulated by the death penalty. If we could just ban it nationwide I think there would be great sighs of relief eventually—even in Texas.

    • Hello Mark:

      “There are….variables other than discrimination that may be at play here.”

      True indeed. As to the major ghettos today, the eternal white urge to discriminate has been mugged by a reality providing fewer opportunities. The intractable problems also defeat the best of unfettered “liberal” intentions. Even gentrification becomes very difficult because it is not economically feasible and there is no solution for the people uprooted.

      “One is that the death penalty is not even available or is rarely imposed in many states that have high percentage of white population e.g. Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Washington, Oregon and Utah.”

      The death penalty is theoretically based on the chimera of deterrence and the “ignobility” of revenge. As deterrence it *does not* work. We’ve known that for well over fifty years. Generation after generation of legal system professionals review the literature in the universities but the political reality doesn’t change much. Some of the best give their entire lives to efforts at revocation of the death penalty. Professor Alan Clarke of Utah is a remarkable example, but the revenge-focused interests representing, it seems, an Old Testament Wrath of God, have been too atavistic and powerful.

      “Secondly, blacks very often have inadequate legal representation due to poverty.”

      True, and there is a long history of both individual and systemic failures to achieve justice for whatever reason. They don’t disappear over time, but change their form. (The classic on the quasi systemic side, awarded the Bancroft Prize, is N. R. McMillen’s “Dark Journey” on the Jim Crow era in Mississippi.)

      The greatest problem arises when the death penalty is involved. It should be eliminated. There is no up-side to it. As a nation we can only gain from transcending it.

      On the professional side it is also true that when one does defense work and is committed to it, it’s a bit of a let-down when the realization comes that almost all defendants are in fact guilty. Prosecutors are pragmatic and very busy. As a general rule they don’t like to burden themselves with marginal cases when the standard for conviction at trial is proof “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Their statistic is the conviction rate.

      “Thirdly, the rate of criminal recidivism is higher among the black population and this is a legitimate basis for a judge or jury to impose the death penalty.”

      We should seek to legitimize the death penalty? I don’t think so. The legitimacy arguments are deterrence and revenge, ineffective and ignoble. Clinging to them is redolent of thousands of years of human savagery to say nothing of being grossly inefficient economically. There is no discernable up-side for the country and that is what we should be searching for.

      “It also should be noted that areas of high black populations e.g. Detroit, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, the government is often dominated by liberal Democrats at the prosecutorial and judicial levels and this leads to leniency in prosecutorial discretion at the charging and plea-bargaining levels and also leniency by judges during pre-trial rand trial proceedings and during sentencing.

      How can you speak of liberal leniency when in fact Dr. Cole’s statistics prove that it doesn’t exist?

  5. .
    so,
    which number am I supposed to be jealous of ?

    “Average household net worth of whites: $110,729.”

    OR

    “Total median wealth, white family, 2009: $ 265,000.”
    .

  6. With increasing wealth disparity, there is a big difference between “median” and “mean” (or “average”) wealth or income.

    Using “median” statistics makes the disparity seem smaller.

  7. There’s something strange with those numbers: average household net worth should be higher than median household net worth. So what is “total median wealth, white family”

    • Looks like the IASP chart is taking data from the Brandeis University PDF the article links to. It appears that Brandeis followed 1,700 households over a 25 year period of time. So it’s not a comprehensive study like the Census is.

  8. First, prisons are for profit organizations in the U.S., as are many laws that impose fines (and those who cannot afford to pay fines go to… jail).

    Second (well, first, actually), people of color have been systematically segregated, denied employment, education, and voting rights, and otherwise repressed for many decades. Is it any wonder, their plight? Really?

    There is not a level playing field. There is not equality. History tells us this. This history cannot be denied no matter how many people (who tend to be… guess what… white and of priviledge) try to tell us that “racism does not exist”.

  9. I’m in tears, The soup pot is boiling, and I’m smelling somethings
    on the stove just
    about to boil over.
    They gave them a
    black face to hopefully simmer what they were smelling themselves but let me tell you with all this injustice continually being done and displayed to the people…THE POT IS BOILING AGAIN….and they are not going to like what’s cooking out there

  10. Jeez, are we reading the same graphs? White aggregate income has nearly tripled, but black aggregate income has more nearly quintupled (multiplied by 5). The aggregate income gap in 1984 was black aggregate income at 6.4% of white aggregate income while in 2009 the gap was black aggregate income at 10.75% of aggregate white income. That’s what the figures really say. The “gap” has narrowed, not widened. Fred Slimp

    • I agree with you. Also, the numbers don’t appear to take account of inflation. In 2009 dollars, white wealth has gone from about $182,000 to $265,000 while black wealth has gone from about $11,000 to to $28,500. The claim is a dishonest misuse of the numbers.

  11. It’s pretty simple Fred. They said the gap tripled and it did. Aggregate difference in 1984 was about $85,000. In 2009 it was $235,000. You say the gap narrowed, which it also did. So both are right. You get that, right?

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