Ron Unz said: ” A sense of the real world impact of these grim statistics may be found in the stratified 2011 Census-ACS data for major American cities. The three urban centers with the largest black populations are New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia, and together they contain over one-third more adult black women than black men. The corresponding national shortfall of black males runs well into the millions, partly accounting for the notorious “marriage gap” problems faced by women of their background. Those millions of missing black men are generally dead or in prison. ”
But is that true? First, the fraction of young black men who are currently in stir is high, but not as high as you might conclude from reading Ron’s piece. A chart on total ethnic incarceration rates per 100,000 males in various ranges could be read to suggest that more than a quarter of young black males (18-29) are in the big house at any given time, but that’s not the case. There are about 2.2 million men in some flavor of slammer: about 86,000 in juvie, 206,000 in Federal prison, 1.3 million in the state pen, and 750,000 in some local jail. About 39% of those cons are black – 555,000 black men were in state or federal prison (2011 figures) .
Note that most people don’t stay that long in the county jail: the median stay at Cook County Jail is 12 days, the average stay is 53 days. Being put in the county jail does not mean you’re imprisoned for much of that year.
I was able to find some state figures the actual percentage of young black men behind bars at a given moment. In Maryland, about 10% of black men 20-30, In Baltimore, almost one in five.
So there definitely are a lot of black men in the jug – but not millions. Less than one million. That still has a significant effect on crime rates, since those imprisoned are presumably the most crime-prone.
But are there really millions of missing black men? Let’s clarify that: those in prison aren’t really ‘missing’ – they are merely elsewhere.
Judging from the Census numbers, quite a few seem to have vanished. Looking at the 2000 census, the sex ratio (male divided by females) for blacks is 1.02 for 15-19 year olds, 0.95 for 20-24 year olds, 0.906 for 25-29 year olds, 0.90 for 30-34 year olds. Remember, the Census counts people in the clink: these guys are really missing.
Most people who have encountered these stats seem to have assumed that those missing were homicides. The problem is, that’s impossible. Look at the 7% drop in the sex ratio between the 15-19 group and the 20-24 group – a 5 year difference. That’s more than 1% of young black men dying per year. Yet the highest homicide rate ever reported for that age group of black men – at the peak of the crack wars, in 1993 – was 195.9 per 100,000 for black men 18-24 – two-tenths of a percent. How do you lose 7% in 5 years with a per-year mortality of 0.2%? In order for killings to to explain the drop in the sex ratio, the real homicide rate among young black men would had to have been seven times higher than the highest rates ever reported by law enforcement.
The homicide rate among young black men is a good deal lower in recent years, or so they say: 91.1 per 100,000 among 18-24 year olds in 2008. But the drop is the sex ratio is still there. In the 2010 census, the sex ratio is 0.987 for 15-19 year old blacks, 0.91 for 20-24 olds, 0.914 for 25-29 year olds, 0.83 for 30-34 year olds. The homicide rate would have to be fifteen times higher than the official numbers to explain the drop. I don’t think that law enforcement is perfect, but I really doubt that they fail to notice 90% of the dead guys lying in the streets of Washington or Detroit.
Correction: I misunderstood some of those Census results. Those numbers are for non-institutionalized civilians. Much of that low sex ratio is indeed a consequence of black guys in prison. But not all. Adjusting for the lower black sex ratio at birth and prison differences [1% of white men age 30-34 are in state/federal prison, 7.3% of black men] age, the black sex ratio is still 9.7% lower than you would expect. Putting it another way, allowing for imprisoned men, the true white sex ratio drop 2% from birth to age 30-34, the true black sex ratio drops 11.7%.
Unless I’ve screwed up something else.