One of Twenty Facts About U.S. Inequality that Everyone Should Know


The incarceration rate in the United States has grown so dramatically since the 1970s that the U.S. now has one of the highest rates in the world. The rise in incarceration has been especially prominent among young Black males and high school dropouts. As shown in this graph, a full 37% of those who are both young black males and high school dropouts are now in prison or jail, a rate that's more than three times higher than what prevailed in 1980.

Percent of 20-34 year old men in prison or jail, by race, ethnicity, and educational attainment, 1980 and 2008

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Source: Western, Bruce & Becky Pettit (2010). Incarceration and Social Inequality. Daedalus, 139(3), 8-19