This landmark prison study has one big problem

Wednesday, August 31, 2016
The Week

"What is the root of black America's incarceration problem? Are racist attitudes among cops to blame? Disproportionately high poverty among black people? Or some combination of the two? Several months ago, three academics, Khaing Zaw, Darrick Hamilton, and William Darity, (statistical research associate, faculty affiliate, and director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, respectively) published a study that seemed to point to the first answer. The study had a number of interesting and worthwhile findings, but what got the most media attention was the breakthrough discovery that poor white people were dramatically less likely to go to prison than all but the richest black people."

"'Race trumps class, at least when it comes to incarceration,'" Hamilton told The Washington Post.

"This was sharply at odds with previous studies that found incarceration very heavily concentrated among poor people of all races, but most especially blacks. If Zaw, Hamilton, and Darity's finding is correct, then anti-poverty policy will be less useful for fighting police brutality than previously supposed."

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