In an article released yesterday, the Washington Post analyzed the results of “a national study that began in 1979 and followed a group of young people into adulthood and middle age.” For those who have long argued that class trumps race in America, and that money is the great equalizer, this study would suggest otherwise– at least when it comes to being sent to prison.
“In some ways . . . discrimination against people of color is more complicated and fundamental than economic inequality. A stark new finding epitomizes that reality: In recent decades, rich black kids have been more likely to go to prison than poor white kids,” writes Max Ehrenfreund, Washington Post staffer.
Somewhat surprising is the finding that “[o]nly the very wealthiest black youth — those whose household wealth in 1985 exceeded $69,000 in 2012 dollars — had a better chance of avoiding prison than the poorest white youth.”
That statistic takes on a whole new meaning when you consider that a whole range of societal influences are at work, operating to prevent blacks as a whole from accumulating wealth.
“What’s more, even young black people who follow the rules and are never incarcerated are less likely than similar white people to accumulate wealth as they get older. As of 2012, the median household wealth of black participants in the study who had never been incarcerated at some point in their lives was $16,200. Those who had been incarcerated had zero wealth at the median.
“Among white participants who had never been incarcerated, however, median household wealth was $192,000 by 2012. The median white participant who had been incarcerated reported wealth of $5,000.”
The takeaway? According to Ehrenfreund, in the criminal justice system, “you can’t just explain away the disproportionate rates at which black and Hispanic youths end up in prison by pointing out that many people of color did not grow up with the same economic advantages as their white peers.”
Read the entire story here.