Skip to main content

Public Perceptions of Black Women and Girls and Their Punitive Consequences (WP-20-49)

Sally Nuamah

How do race and gender affect public support for the punishment of Black girls? Across the United States, Black women are imprisoned at twice the rate of white women and Black girls represent the fastest growing juvenile justice population. Despite these jarring statistics, little research exists on the public perceptions contributing to these troubling patterns across race and gender, particularly in public opinion research. This paper uses an original survey experiment of Americans to determine the public perceptions shaping the punishment of Black girls. The analysis reveals that Black girls are seen as older, more dangerous, and more knowledgeable about sex. Further, they are viewed as deserving of harsher punishments than any other student. These findings have serious implications for the study of race, gender, criminal justice, and public opinion as they specify the potential role of the American public in contributing to the uneven punitive experiences of Black girls.

Sally Nuamah, Assistant Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Download PDF