Postdoctoral fellow, University of California, San Diego


The mass incarceration of Black Americans has been hypothesized as both a cause and driver of racial health inequalities in the nation. Systemic social biases which associate Black men with criminality, violence, and threats to White women in particular may partially explain their over-representation in the criminal justice system. These analyses tested spatial association between disproportionate Black male drug arrests and neighborhood race, gender, and economic dynamics. Utilizing data from the Washington, DC Metro Police Department (MPD) and the American Community Survey, we built 3 successive linear regression models (A, B, and C). Our unit of analysis was the Police Service Area (PSA), MPD’s smallest administrative unit (n=56). The outcome was arrest disproportion (AD): the proportion of Black men arrested within a PSA, divided by the proportion of Black male PSA residents. Model A regressed AD on PSA racial majority and percentage of female residents. Model B added an interaction term between these, and Model C included PSA unemployment and median income. In model A, AD significantly increased in majority White PSAs (b=10.15, p<0.001) but was not associated with percentage of female residents. The interaction term in model B was significant (p<0.001): AD rose with more female residents in majority White PSAs (b=0.82, p <0.001), but not in non-majority White PSAs. When economic variables were added in Model C, PSA racial majority was no longer significant, although more female residents in majority White PSAs continued to be associated with higher AD (b=0.53, p= 0.04) as did PSA unemployment (b=0.03, p<0.001). Addressing the social determinants of criminal justice disparities must account for the intersection of race, gender, and economics, rather than considering race in isolation. Bias training efforts, which may be effective at reducing racial disparities in policing, should be expanded to (1) consider intersecting identities and (2) include communities.