According to a 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics bulletin on state and federal prisoners, African American and Hispanic men are incarcerated at higher rates nationally than white men (Carson and Sabol 2012).3 Among all US male residents in 2011, 932 men per 100,000 were imprisoned.4 When broken out by race and ethnicity, striking differences appear: incarceration rates for African American men are over six times higher than rates for white men and nearly two and a half times higher than rates for Hispanic men (figure 1).
Figure 1. 2011 US Male Incarceration Rates by Race and Ethnicity
Source: E. Ann Carson and William J. Sabol, “Prisoners in 2011,” NCJ 239808 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2012).
Note: African American refers to non-Hispanic African American or black and includes those who identified themselves as black or African American only. White refers to non-Hispanic white and includes those who identified themselves as white only. People of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Figure 2. Percentage of Men Age 20–34 in Prison by Race and Ethnicity, 1980 and 2008
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts, “Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility” (Washington, DC: Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010).
Note: African American refers to non-Hispanic African American or black and includes those who identified themselves as black or African American only. White refers to non-Hispanic white and includes those who identified themselves as white only. People of Hispanic origin may be of any race
Most men in prison in 2011 were between 30 and 34 years old, according to the 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics report. In that age range, 1,115 white men were imprisoned per 100,000 men in the population. Rates were higher among African American and Hispanic men, at 7,517 and 2,762, respectively, per 100,000. Although the racial differences in prison rates among men age 30–34 are quite pronounced, the racial disparities are highest among young men between the ages of 18 and 19:5
- African American men age 18–19 are 9.3 times more likely than white men of the same age to be imprisoned.
Hispanic men age 18–19 are 3.5 times more likely than white men of the same age to be imprisoned (Carson and Sabol 2012).
In addition to racial and ethnic differences in incarceration rates, criminal offenses vary by race and ethnicity (Carson and Sabol 2012). In 2010, white men were more likely than African Americans and Hispanics to be imprisoned for property-related crimes (24 percent compared with 15 and 14 percent, respectively). African American men were more likely to be imprisoned for drug offenses. Twenty-one percent of the African American prison population was incarcerated on drug offenses compared with 15 percent of the white prison population. Hispanics were slightly more likely than whites to be incarcerated for drug offenses (17 percent).