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Northward Migration and the Rise of Racial Disparity in American Incarceration, 1880–1950

Christopher Muller
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 118, No. 2 (September 2012), pp. 281-326
DOI: 10.1086/666384
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/666384
Page Count: 46
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Northward Migration and the Rise of Racial Disparity in American Incarceration, 1880–1950
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Abstract

Of all facets of American racial inequality studied by social scientists, racial disparity in incarceration has proved one of the most difficult to explain. This article traces a portion of the rise of racial inequality in incarceration in northern and southern states to increasing rates of African-American migration to the North between 1880 and 1950. It employs three analytical strategies. First, it introduces a decomposition to assess the relative contributions of geographic shifts in the population and regional changes in the incarceration rate to the increase in racial disparity. Second, it estimates the effect of the rate of white and nonwhite migration on the change in the white and nonwhite incarceration rates of the North. Finally, it uses macro- and microdata to evaluate the mechanisms proposed to explain this effect.

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