50 Facts to Know if You’re White and Want to Discuss Race in America

Want to talk about race in America? That’s great — so long as you know your facts first. All statistics listed below have been sourced from verified research and reputable publications.

Crime

There is no way to know for certain whether Black people commit more crimes than whites or any other racial group; all we can know for certain is that more documented crime is committed by Black people than whites.

  1. We also know for certain that, in many cases, white people are caught less often for the crimes they do commit. In 2010, the ACLU found that Black people were 3.7x more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though the rate of marijuana usage among both groups was comparable.

    Source: The War on Marijuana in Black and White | American Civil Liberties Union
  2. Crime is more linked to income than race or any other factor. People living in households with income below the poverty threshold are 2x more likely to commit a violent crime than people in high-income households, regardless of race.

    Source: Household Poverty and Nonfatal Violent Victimization, 2008 – 2012 | U.S. Department of Justice
  3. A 2008 study found that reductions in neighborhood poverty produced reductions in violent crime in the exact same way in both white and Black neighborhoods.

    Source: Violent Crime in African American and White Neighborhoods: Is Poverty’s Detrimental Effect Race-Specific? | Journal of Poverty

Arrests

  1. Black people make up less than 13% of the population and only 14% of regular drug users, but make up 37% of drug arrests and 56% of prisoners in state jails for drug offenses.

    Source: A 25-Year Quagmire: The War on Drugs and Its Impact on American Society | The Sentencing Project
  2. When New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy was declared unconstitutional in 2013, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin concluded that the highest officials in the city had “turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner.”

    Source: Judge Rejects New York’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy | The New York Times
  3. Black kids are 10x more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than white kids, even though white kids are more likely to use drugs.

    Source: Racial/Ethnic Variations in Substance-Related Disorders among Adolescents in the United States | Archives of General Psychiatry

Sentencing

  1. Among cases of similar seriousness, federal prosecutors are twice as likely to charge African Americans with offenses that carry a mandatory minimum sentence than whites.

    Source: Mandatory Sentencing and Racial Disparity: Assessing the Role of Prosecutors and the Effects of Booker | Yale Law Journal
  2. Between 2012 and 2016, researchers found that Black male offenders received sentences that were 19.1% longer than similarly situated white male offenders.

    Source: Demographic Differences in Sentencing | United States Sentencing Commission
  3. Most jurisdictions inadequately fund their public defender programs, resulting in many low-income individuals being represented by public defenders with excessively high caseloads or by lawyers with limited criminal defense experience. In 2007, the 22 public defender programs that operate at the state level received a median of 73,000 cases, which comes out to a median per-case expenditure of just $510.

    Source: Census of Public Defender Offices: State Public Defender Programs, 2007 | Bureau of Justice Statistics

Incarceration

According to a 2018 report to the UN by The Sentencing Project, “The United States in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and people of color. The wealthy can access a vigorous adversary system replete with constitutional protections for defendants. Yet the experiences of poor and minority defendants within the criminal justice system often differ substantially from that model due to a number of factors.”

  1. Black people comprise less than 13% of the population but 40% of prisoners.

    Source: Breaking Down Mass Incarceration in the 2010 Census: State-by-State Incarceration by Race/Ethnicity | Prison Policy Initiative
  2. White men have a 1 in 23 chance of being imprisoned in their lifetimes, while Black men have a 1 in 3 chance of being imprisoned in their lifetimes.

    Source: Race and the Criminal Justice System | Equal Justice Initiative
  3. The United States’s prison population accounts for over 20% of the world’s total.

    Source: What Percent of the U.S. Is Incarcerated? | Prison Policy Initiative
  4. African-American adults are 5.9x as likely to be incarcerated than whites. Hispanic adults are 3.1x more likely to be incarcerated than whites.

    Source: Report to the United Nations on Racial Disparities in the U.S. Criminal Justice System | The Sentencing Project

Police

  1. Black Americans are more than 2.5x more likely to be killed by law enforcement than whites.

    Source: The Mapping Police Violence Project
  2. Boys and men aged 15-19 are 21x more likely to get shot and killed by police if they’re Black than if they’re white.

    Source: Deadly Force, in Black and White | ProPublica
  3. Despite making up less than 13% of the population, Black people make up 31% of police shooting victims and 39% of police victims who were not attacking when killed.

    Source: Expanded Homicide Data, 2013 | FBI via Vox

Wealth

  1. The poverty rate is more than twice as high among Black Americans than among white Americans.

    Source: The Economic State of Black America in 2020 | Senate Joint Economic Committee
  2. A 2017 study found that most white Americans believe that Black Americans’ wealth is about 80% of whites. In reality, the 2016 census revealed that Black Americans’ wealth is worth 9% of whites’.

    Sources: Americans Misperceive Racial Economic Equality | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and Wealth, Asset Ownership, & Debt of Households Detailed Tables: 2016 | U.S. Census Bureau
  3. In 2016, the median net worth of non-Hispanic white households was $143,600, compared to just $12,920 for Black households.

    Source: Wealth, Asset Ownership, & Debt of Households Detailed Tables: 2016 | U.S. Census Bureau
  4. Between 1983 and 2013, white households’ cumulative wealth increased by 14% while the cumulative wealth of Hispanic households decreased by 50% and the cumulative wealth of Black households decreased by 75%.

    Source: The Road to Zero Wealth: How the Racial Wealth Divide is Hollowing Out America’s Middle Class | Prosperity Now (formerly the Corporation for Enterprise Development)
  5. For every $100 held by white families, Black families have just $5.04.

    Source: Whites Have Huge Wealth Edge Over Blacks (but Don’t Know It) | Association for Psychological Science
  6. Of the $400 billion offered by the federal government in tax cuts each year, over half goes to the wealthiest 5% of Americans. The bottom 20% receive almost nothing.

    Source: Upside Down: The $400 Billion Federal Asset-Building Budget | Corporation for Enterprise Development
  7. Black families with graduate or professional degrees have $200,000 less in wealth than similarly-educated whites.

    Source: The Racial Wealth Gap: How African-Americans Have Been Shortchanged out of the Materials to Build Wealth | Economic Policy Institute

Education

  1. Black students are 3x more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers.

    Source: Data Snapshot: School Discipline | U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights
  2. Black children represent 18% of preschool enrollment but 48% of preschool children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension. By comparison, white students represent 43% of preschool enrollment but 26% of preschool children receiving more than one out of school suspension.

    Source: Data Snapshot: School Discipline | U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights

    Relevant commentary regarding the justification of these preschool suspensions: “Preschool children sometimes engage in troublesome behavior such as kicking, hitting, and biting, but quality preschools have behavior intervention plans in place to counter these forms of acting out. Furthermore, it’s highly unlikely that only black children act out in preschool, a stage in life in which kids are notorious for having temper tantrums.” – How Racism Affects Minority Students in Public Schools | ThoughtCo.
  3. In 2015, 13 southern states were responsible for 55% of the 1.2 million suspensions of Black students in the United States. In 84 Southern school districts, 100% of students suspended were Black.

    Source: Disproportionate Impact of K-12 School Suspension and Expulsion on Black Students in Southern States | University of Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education
  4. A 2016 report found that both Black and Hispanic third graders were half as likely as whites to participate in gifted and talented programs. Earlier studies found that, even when qualified for these programs, children of color were still less likely to be identified to participate.

    Source: Discretion and Disproportionality: Explaining the Underrepresentation of High-Achieving Students of Color in Gifted Programs | American Educational Research Association
  5. A 2015 study of children in Washington found that Black, Hispanic, and Native American students were most likely to have teachers with the least amount of experience, the worst licensure exam scores, and the poorest record of improving student test scores.

    Source: Uneven Playing Field? Assessing the Teacher Quality Gap Between Advantaged and Disadvantaged Students | American Educational Research Association

Immigration

Negative perspectives on immigration tend to emphasize a few factors: burden on the American economy, us of American social programs and resources, and crime perpetrated by immigrants. The statistics below address the legitimacy of these concerns.

  1. Immigrants’ share of total financial output over 2009 – 2011 was about 14.7%, which is greater than immigrants’ 13% share of the population.

    Source: Facts about Immigration and the U.S. Economy | Economic Policy Institute
  2. Most economists agree that the net financial impact of unauthorized immigration is small but positive, meaning unauthorized immigration reduces overall budget deficits.

    Source: The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration | National Resource Council
  3. The National Resource Council estimates the average fiscal impact of an immigrant with more than a high school education is positive $198,000.

    Source: The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration | National Resource Council
  4. Unauthorized immigrants contribute more to Medicare than they take out. In 2009, immigrants contributed $33 billion to the Medicare trust fund (about 15% of total contributions) and only received $19 billion (about 8%) of expenditures, resulting in a total $14 billion surplus contribution. United States-born citizens contributed $192 billion and received $223 billion, decreasing the fund by $31 billion overall.

    Between 2002 and 2009, immigrants generated a total surplus of $115 billion for the Medicare trust fund, most of which came from unauthorized immigrants.

    Source: Immigrants Contributed An Estimated $115.2 Billion More To The Medicare Trust Fund Than They Took Out In 2002–09 | Health Affairs
  5. Individual Medicare expenses are lower on average for immigrants than for American citizens. In 2009, the average Medicare expenditure was $3,923 for immigrant enrollees and $5,388 for U.S.-born enrollees.

    Source: Immigrants Contributed An Estimated $115.2 Billion More To The Medicare Trust Fund Than They Took Out In 2002–09 | Health Affairs
  6. The presence of undocumented workers in the United States has a net positive effect on the financial status of the Social Security program. In 2010, the Social Security Administration estimated the net tax revenue paid by unauthorized workers was about $12 billion.

    Source: Effects of Unauthorized Immigration on the Actuarial Status of the Social Security Trust Funds | Social Security Administration
  7. In addition to the loss of the net positive impact of undocumented immigrants on the American economy, a mass deportation of the 11.7 would cost the government about $200 billion to execute and an additional $85 billion to enforce continuously over a period of 5 years. This comes out to $922 in new taxes for every individual in the United States.

    Source: The Costs of Mass Deportation: Impractical, Expensive, and Ineffective | The Center for American Progress
  8. In a 2018 study of 200 metropolitan areas over the last several decades, researchers compared immigration rates with crime rates and found that, in almost 70% of the areas studied, the immigrant population increased between 1980 and 2016 while crime stayed stable or fell. The 10 places with the largest increases in immigrants all had lower levels of crime in 2016 than in 1980.

    Source: The Myth of the Criminal Immigrant | The Marshall Project
  9. In a study that analyzed crime rates in the metropolitan areas with the highest estimated population of unauthorized immigrants, researchers found the majority of areas recorded decreases in both violent and property crime between 2007 and 2016.

    Source: Is There a Connection Between Undocumented Immigrants and Crime? | The Marshall Project

Privilege

Having privilege doesn’t mean your life is easy; it just means lacking privilege makes life hard. Individual advantages and disadvantages vary, but even a white person with significant personal disadvantages would be disadvantaged further if they had black skin.

It is harder to be Black and:

  1. Get a job: A white male with a criminal record is 5% more likely to get a job than an equally qualified person of color with a clean record.

    Source: Discrimination in a Low-Wage Labor Market: A Field Experiment | American Sociological Review
  2. Be an ex-con: The wages of Black ex-convicts grow at a 21% slower rate than white ex-convicts.

    Source: Compounded Disadvantage: Race, Incarceration, and Wage Growth | Society for the Study of Social Problems
  3. Be poor: Among children who experienced 1+ year of poverty, a Black child is 2x more likely to be poor as an adult.

    Source: Two American Experiences: The Racial Divide of Poverty | The Urban Institute
  4. Be sick: Black Americans are sicker throughout life and die at younger ages than any other racial/ethnic group except Native Americans.

    Source: Health, United States, 2011, with Special Features on Socioeconomic Status and Health | National Center for Health Statistics
  5. Be female: From 1980 – 2008, Black victims made up 55% of all intimate homicides despite representing less than 13% of the population.

    Source: Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980 – 2008: Annual Rates for 2009 and 2010 | Bureau of Justice Statistics

Bias

  1. Whites begin to perceive Black boys as threatening at just 5 years old, associating them with adjectives like “violent,” “dangerous,” “hostile,” and “aggressive.”

    Source: Does Seeing Faces of Young Black Boys Facilitate the Identification of Threatening Stimuli? | Association for Psychological Science
  2. A 2009 study found white applicants get 50% more calls than Black applicants with the same resumes.

    Source: Discrimination in a Low-Wage Labor Market: A Field Experiment | American Sociological Association
  3. In a 2012 study, college professors were 26% more likely to respond to a student’s email when it was signed by Brad rather than Lamar.

    Source: Temporal Distance and Discrimination: An Audit Study in Academia | Association for Psychological Science
  4. Physicians recommend less pain medication for Black patients than white patients with the same injury.

    Source: Racial Bias in Pain Assessment and Treatment Recommendations, and False Beliefs about Biological Differences between Blacks and Whites | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  5. In 2013, only 84% of white Americans approved of interracial marriage between Black people and white people.

    Source: In U.S., 87% Approve of Black-White Marriage, vs. 4% in 1958 | Gallup
  6. In a 2014 survey, 43% of whites said that racial inequality was due to a lack of motivation among Black people, while only 28% said racial inequality was due to discrimination.

    Source: Explanations of Inequality | The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago
  7. In 1972, 72% of whites agreed with the statement, “Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class,” while 69% agreed with the statement, “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.” In 2012, only 46 percent of white respondents agreed with the statement about discrimination, while 65 percent agreed with the statement about individual motivation.

    Source: Explanations of Inequality | The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago
  8. A 2019 survey found that 65% of Americans say it’s more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views, while 45 percent said it has become more acceptable to express racist or racially insensitive views.

    Source: Race in America 2019 | Pew Research Center

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