Statistics of incarcerated African-American males

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2009. Percent of adult males incarcerated by race and ethnicity.[1]

The process of gathering and analyzing statistics on the incarceration in the United States of African-American males has been taken by several studies on a specific age group, geographical location, causes of incarceration or simply the upbringing of a child over a course of years. Approximately 12–13% of the American population is African-American, but they make up 60% of the almost 2.1 million male inmates in jail or prison (U.S. Department of Justice, 2009).[2] Census data for 2000 of the number and race of all individuals incarcerated in the United States revealed a wide racial disproportion of the incarcerated population in each state: the proportion of blacks in prison populations exceeded the proportion among state residents in twenty states.

According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population, and have nearly six times the incarceration rate of whites.[3] An August 2013, Sentencing Project report on Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System, submitted to the United Nations, found that "one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime".[4][5]

Statistics by age group[edit]

  • A black male born in 1991 has a 69% chance of spending time in prison at some point in his life.[6]
  • One out of nine African American men will be incarcerated between the ages of 20 and 34.
  • Black males ages 30 to 34 have the highest incarceration rate of any race/ethnicity.

(According to America Community Survey.)

Huffington Post Politics piece Can Black Boys Cry? Tears Of Trayvon Martin states "African-American men comprise a mere 6% of the American population, but according to the Department of Justice, they make up nearly half of the 2 million inmates in U.S. jails or prisons. According to the U.S. census, nearly half of America’s 19 million black men are under the age of 35 years old, and the ratio for young black male imprisonment is around 10 percent, or 10,000 prisoners per 100,000. (Note: This is not counting the additional numbers on parole, or on probation, which add significantly to these numbers.) Placing this ratio in context, as of today, India, a country of 1 billion people, only has about 300,000 prisoners, a ratio of 30 prisoners per 100,000 people. During South African apartheid, the prison rate for black male South Africans, under immensely unfair laws, was 851 per 100,000. In America today, young black men face a rate of imprisonment effectively ten times that number."

Prison vs. college[edit]

Several studies have concluded that overall, more black males are in prison than are enrolled in colleges and universities. In 2000 there were 791,600 black men in prison and 603,032 enrolled in college versus 1980, when there were 143,000 black men in prison and 463,700 enrolled in college. In 2003, according to Justice Department figures, 193,000 black college-age men were in prison, while 532,000 black college-age men were attending college. On an average day in 1996, more black male high school dropouts aged 20–35 were in custody than in paid employment; by 1999, over one-fifth of black non-college men in their early 30’s had prison records.[7]

Other studies contradict this, see NPR Are There Really More Black Men In Prison Than College?.

According to Antonio Moore in his Huffington Post article, "there are more African American men incarcerated in the U.S. than the total prison populations in India, Argentina, Canada, Lebanon, Japan, Germany, Finland, Israel and England combined." There are only 19 million African American males in the United States, collectively these countries represent over 1.6 billion people.[8]The Black Male Incarceration Problem is Real and Catastrophic - Huffington Post

Black high school dropouts by year[edit]

Percentage of Black high school dropouts 16 to 25

Year Percentage
1972 22.3
1980 20.8
1985 16.1
1990 11.9
1995 11.1
1996 13.5
1997 13.3
1998 15.5
1999 12.1
2000 15.3
2001 13.0
2002 12.8
2003 12.5
2004 13.5
2005 12.0
2006 9.7

A new release as September 2012 from Schott Foundation finds only 52% of Black males graduate from high school. From 2001–2002 black males increased and by 10 percent, and 2010–11,was the first year that more than half the black males received a diploma according to Holzman, Michael (2012), Jackson, John H.; Beaudry, Ann, eds., The Urgency of Now: The Schott 50 state report on public education and black males, Schott Foundation for Public Education, retrieved 2014-03-02 .

The leading causes of incarceration for African American males[edit]

  1. The leading cause of incarceration of an African American male is a non-violent drug offense.
    1. Between 1985 and 1995 the American prison population of drug offenders increased from 38,900 to 224,900 with African American males at the top (King 166).
  2. Person crimes
  3. Property crimes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Prison Inmates at Midyear 2009 - Statistical Tables (NCJ 230113). U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. The rates are for adult males, and are from Tables 18 and 19 of the PDF file. Rates per 100,000 were converted to percentages.
  2. ^ "Prison Inmates 2009 - Statistical Tables (Table 16)." (PDF). 
  3. ^ "Criminal Justice Fact Sheet". National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  4. ^ "Report of The Sentencing Project to the United Nations Human Rights Committee:Regarding Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System" (PDF). August 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  5. ^ Knafo, Saki (October 4, 2013). "1 In 3 Black Males Will Go To Prison In Their Lifetime, Report Warns". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Western, Bruce (August 2002). "The Impact of Incarceration on Wage Mobility and Inequality" (PDF). 
  8. ^ Antonio Moore (February 23, 2015). The Black Male Incarceration Problem Is Real and It's Catastrophic. The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2015.