More than three times as many black people live in prison cells as in college dorms, the government said in a report to be released today.
The ratio is only slightly better for Hispanics, at 2.7 inmates for every Latino in college housing. Among non-Hispanic whites, more than twice as many live in college housing as in prison or jail.
The numbers, driven by men, do not include college students who live off campus. Previously released census data show that black and Hispanic college students—commuters and those in dorms—far outnumber black and Hispanic prison inmates.
“It’s one of the great social and economic tragedies of our time,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the Urban League. “It points to the signature failure in our education system and how we’ve been raising our children.”
The new data have limitations. In addition to not including commuter students, they do not provide racial breakdowns by gender or age, though they do show that males make up 90 percent of prison inmates.
Also, most prison inmates are 25 or older while 96 percent of people in college housing are age 18 to 24.
Blacks made up 41 percent of the nation’s 2 million prison and jail inmates in 2006. Non-Hispanic whites made up 37 percent and Hispanics made up 19 percent.