April 11, 2006

La Griffe du Lion is back

The Zorro of statisticians returns with an essay on


To the civil rights activist few things are more vexing than the profound racial disparities in our prison system. An adult black man, for example, is seven times more likely than a white to be housed behind bars. Paradoxically, the largest disparities are found in political domains controlled by liberals -- the very leaders in the struggle for racial justice. By revealing how criminal behavior is distributed among the races, Prodigy resolves this paradox showing it to be an unintended consequence of liberal benevolence and goodwill.

We all know that African Americans are imprisoned disproportionately to their numbers in the general population. According to the last decennial census a black man was 7.4 times more likely to be found behind bars than his white counterpart. In the language I'll use today, we would say that the disparity or incarceration ratio was 7.4. State-by-state, the figures varied widely from 3.1 to 29.3. But contrary to expectation, the highest disparity ratios turned up mostly in politically progressive states, while the smallest ratios were mostly found in conservative states. Though the numbers change a bit from year to year, this racial-political pattern of imprisonment endures. One of the questions I will answer today is, why?...

Social critic Steve Sailer observed in 2001 that conservative states tend to incarcerate whites at high per capita rates. Figure 1 confirms Sailer's observation. It shows, for adult men, the relationship between a state's white incarceration rate and its average LQ. The relationship is strong and inverse (R = -0.56).


One question that I don't know the answer to is whether conservative states tend to imprison more whites because they are more conservative, or they are more conservative because they have more hell-raising white people who need more locking up for society to function. La Griffe shows that the simple assumption that liberal states have higher thresholds of criminal behavior before locking people up goes a long way to explaining the imprisonment patterns that we see. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if, say, liberal Connecticut really does have better behaved white people than conservative Oklahoma. (Also, the imprisonment data by state could be adjusted for the age of the population -- states with lots of old white people like Pennsylvania and North Dakota are going to naturally have fewer people imprisoned than states with younger folks.)

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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