Study Finds That Police Are More Likely to Use Force Against Higher Income Black Women

Robert Motley Jr.

A new study  by Robert Motley Jr. a doctoral student and Sean Joe, the Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor of Social Development at the Brown School of Washington University in St. Louis, examines the use of force by police officers when factors such as race, gender and income are taken into account.

The researchers examined 2011 data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics on Black and White people who had involuntary contact with police officers during a street stop. The results showed that for Black men, the lower their income the more likely they were to be the subject of police force. But just the opposite was true for Black women. The authors found that the police use of force was significantly more likely for Black women with incomes over $50,000.

The authors note that previous research found that “middle-class Black people were significantly more likely than disadvantaged Black people to view the practice of racial profiling as widespread and to report that they have experienced it personally. Similarly, research examining experiences with racialized, biased policing among Black residents revealed that perceived discriminatory police actions are greatest for Black people residing in predominantly White affluent neighborhoods.”

In other words, more educated and affluent Black women – particularly those in predominantly White neighborhoods – may be more likely to challenge what they perceive to be racially discriminatory policing and therefore are more likely to be met with force in return.

The full study, “Police Use of Force by Ethnicity, Sex, and Socioeconomic Class,” was published on the website of the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research. It may be accessed here.


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