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

Sally Nuamah

How do race and gender stereotypes affect public support for the punishment of Black girls? Across the United States, Black girls are suspended, arrested, and detained at disproportionate rates. And yet, little research exists on these troubling patterns in public opinion research. Using an original survey experiment, this paper places the punitive experiences of Black girls at the center of research on American politics. The data illustrate the empirical link between the adultification of Black girls and public support for their punishment. In particular, it reveals that the American public views Black girls as older, more dangerous, and more knowledgeable about sex, thus influencing perceptions of them as deserving of harsher punishments than their peers. These findings have important implications for understanding the general public's potential role in shaping the punitive experiences of Black girls and raise questions about the consequences of their punishment for democracy.

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

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