Mass Incarceration & Racial Achievement Gap

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This Washington Post article highlights he findings from Economic Policy Institute’s report, Mass Incarceration and Children’s Outcomes: Criminal Justice Policy is Education Policy. The report says the “evidence is overwhelming that the unjustified incarceration of African American fathers (and, increasingly, mothers as well) is an important cause of the lowered performance of their children” and of the racial achievement gap.

Consider:

  • By the age of 14, approximately 25 percent of African American children have experienced a parent — in most cases a father — being imprisoned for some period of time. On any given school day, approximately 10 percent of African American schoolchildren have a parent who is in jail or prison, more than four times the share in 1980.
  • The comparable share for white children is 4 percent; an African American child is six times as likely as a white child to have or have had an incarcerated parent.
  • A growing share of African Americans have been arrested for drug crimes, yet African Americans are no more likely than whites to sell or use drugs. Of imprisoned fathers of African American children, only one-third are in prison because of a violent crime.
  • Research in criminal justice, health, sociology, epidemiology, and economics demonstrates that when parents are incarcerated, children do worse across cognitive and noncognitive outcome measures — and the incarceration is a key cause. For example, children of incarcerated parents are more likely to drop out of school; develop learning disabilities; misbehave in school; suffer from migraines, asthma, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and homelessness.