This landmark prison study has 1 big problem

Some rich kids were probably counted as poor

An inmate in a California state prison, 2007.
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

What is the root of black America's incarceration problem? Are racist attitudes among cops to blame? Disproportionately high poverty among black people? Or some combination of the two?

Several months ago, three academics, Khaing Zaw, Darrick Hamilton, and William Darity, published a study that seemed to point to the first answer. The study had a number of interesting and worthwhile findings, but what got the most media attention was the breakthrough discovery that poor white people were dramatically less likely to go to prison than all but the richest black people. "Race trumps class, at least when it comes to incarceration," Hamilton told The Washington Post.

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