Sunday, May 21, 2006

Blacks were not always arrested in large numbers: It is widely believed that cops target blacks for arrest and have always done so. According to recent surveys, the percent of black men who have ever been arrested runs in the 30s. The General Social Survey can tell us what percent of black men who were young during the in the 1920s were arrested during that decade. I choose that period because KKK membership peaked at around 4 million members, and many cities were run by Klan leaders. If there was any time when black guys were unfairly arrested, it was then. So if it's 35% now, it must have been 75% then, right? Try 11 percent.


  1. Aren't you worried about selection bias? I imagine that blacks who were arrested in the 1930s were more likely to die earlier. Crime propensity correlates with lower IQ. Lower IQ correlates with shorter lifespan. The lack of judgment which would cause one to get arrested would also harm one's lifespan.
    Am I missing something here?

  2. Very valid point. If the selection bias were steep, the true arrest rate for black men from the 20s could be higher than the current rate, but keep in mind an offsetting factor: the question was about having ever been arrested, so the answers given by the elderly men I based the 1920's rate on covered a 50-year period (I used 1970s data). While most arrests occur while you are in your teens or 20s, estimates could be inflated by arrests happening at later ages.

  3. If towns were run by the KKK in the 20s it doesn't surprise me that arrest levels were low for blacks. Stuff I've read of that period indicates blacks were terrified of random lynchings and beatings by marauding gangs of whites who wouldn't hesitate if they saw a black person outside their designated neighbourhood. Longago i googled some story about South Gate, CA which is next to South Central and Compton.. a black person speaking about the time before WW2 said `them white boys would light you on fire.'


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