New Research Finds That 44 Percent of Black Women Say They Have a Family Member in Prison

lee.hedy_Research led by Hedwig Lee, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington, finds that two of every five African American women know someone who is incarcerated. The results are not that surprising considering that according to U.S. Justice Department data, one in every 15 adult African American men are in jail or in prison.

Here are some other statistics from the study:

  • Some 44 percent of Black women said they had a family member who was in prison. For White women, the figure was 12 percent.
  • More than one third of Black women said they had an acquaintance in prison and 17 percent said they had a person they trust behind bars.
  • Nearly a quarter of Black women said that a neighbor they knew was in prison.

Dr. Lee said that “we think this work can bring visibility to a significant proportion of our population dealing with the day-to-day and long-term consequences of having a family member in prison.” Dr. Lee is a graduate of Cornell University and holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Christopher Wildeman, an associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University an a co-author of the study, added, “Our estimates show even deeper racial inequalities in connectedness to prisoners than previous work might have implied. Because imprisonment has negative consequences not only for the men and women who cycle through the system but also for the parents, partners and progeny they leave behind, mass imprisonment’s long-term consequences of racial inequality in the United States might be even greater than any of us working in this area had originally suspected.”

The article, “Racial Inequalities in Connectedness to Imprisoned Individuals in the United States,” was published in the journal Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race. It may be accessed here.


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