Chris Blattman

Deeply chilling sentences

I am starkly amazed: A very serious economics book on inequality, Thomas Piketty’s Capital, is currently Amazon’s #1 best selling book. Whether you like this book or not, the fact that it beats out Heaven is for Real should give you some hope for the country.

Before we get too giddy, a new paper by Derek Neal:

On any given day in 2010, almost one in ten black men ages 20-39 were institutionalized [in a prison or mental hospital], and rates of institutionalization were actually slightly higher among black men in 2000.

…[R]ates among less-educated black men have reached levels that were unthinkable prior to 1980. …[A]mong black men in 2010, more than 1 in 6 high school dropouts in their forties were institutionalized on any given day.

These numbers do not simply reflect a significant number of men who are serving extremely long sentences. Admission rates for new court commitments are now also noteworthy for this age group.

Punchline for the inequality averse: While we spare some time for Piketty’s global wealth tax, we could also think about ways not to imprison the majority of American black men in their lifetimes.

39 Responses

  1. Chris, could you spell this out a bit more: “we could also think about ways not to imprison the majority of American black men in their lifetimes.”

    Are you saying that majority American black men are incarcerated sometime during their lives?

  2. I’m baffled by the “gotcha” tone of this post/your tweet. Is caring about rising inequality somehow mutually exclusive from caring about criminal justice reform? Do the liberal and left-wingers enamored with Piketty oppose measures to reduce the imprisonment and institutionalization of black men? Can one not simultaneously believe that inequality is a subject worthy of serious study and also believe that America’s current drug laws and justice systems are wildly unjust?

  3. It is amazing that a book on economics by a French Socialist should be a best seller. How disturbing. They are shortly to be defeated – at the next election- due to their poor economic policies. Do people not read newspapers.

  4. I agree that this is a huge issue. At least Obama and Holder are making a stab at that with the changes in drug sentencing and now with the clemency program for those already in prison. Decriminalization of pot possession by some jurisdictions helps as well. Fixing public schools in poorer neighborhoods so kids have real opportunities early on is the really huge challenge.

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