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Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress Becky Pettit Department of Sociology University of Washington

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Presentation on theme: "Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress Becky Pettit Department of Sociology University of Washington"— Presentation transcript:

1 Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress Becky Pettit Department of Sociology University of Washington October 2012

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3 I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. -Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

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10 United States Prison and Jail Population,

11 Civilian Incarceration Rates, Men 20-34, by Education and Race White Men LTHS HS/GED Some College All

12 Civilian Incarceration Rates, Men 20-34, by Education and Race White Men LTHS HS/GED Some College All Black Men LTHS HS/GED Some College All

13 Educational Attainment of Male Inmates, WhiteBlack LTHS HS/GED Some College

14 Educational Attainment of Male Inmates, WhiteBlackWhiteBlack LTHS HS/GED Some College

15 Data Non-institutionalized population Current Population Survey (CPS March )

16 Data Non-institutionalized population Current Population Survey (CPS March ) Inmate population Aggregate inmate counts ( )

17 Data Non-institutionalized population Current Population Survey (CPS March ) Inmate population Aggregate inmate counts ( ) Survey of Inmates of Local Jails (1978, 1983, 1989, 1996, 2002) Survey of Inmates of State Correctional Facilities (1979, 1986, 1991, 1997, 2004) Survey of Inmates of Federal Correctional Facilities (1991, 1997, 2004)

18 Method Construct estimates of indicators for household(HH) and inmate (I ) populations

19 Method Construct estimates of indicators for household(HH) and inmate (I ) populations Calculate weighted average of indicators including both groups using weights derived from CPS estimates of the civilian population

20 Percent of Men Not Completing High School/GED, N-H WhiteN-H Black Observed

21 Percent of Men Not Completing High School/GED, N-H WhiteN-H Black Observed Adjusted

22 Percent of Men Not Completing High School/GED, N-H WhiteN-H Black Observed Adjusted % Difference11%41%

23 Racial Inequality in High School Dropout Rates, Men 20-34,

24 Selection Effect due to Incarceration

25 Conclusions Prison or jail is normative among some social and demographic groups Excluding inmates from surveys obscures portraits of inequality Including inmates, we find: – No improvement in high school dropout rate among young, black men – Young, black, male dropouts are more likely to be in prison or jail than be employed – The same fraction of young, black male dropouts voted in 2008 as in 1980

26 Why is Invisible Men Challenging? Out of the mainstream of American sociology, which now focuses on formulating and testing scientific hypotheses Contradicts the notion of black progress in the post-civil rights era Implicates much social science (and social scientists) as complicit


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