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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 affect public support for the punishment of Black women and 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 factors contributing to these troubling patterns across race and gender as established work tends to focus on Black men. This paper uses an original survey experiment of Americans to determine the public perceptions shaping the punishment of Black women and 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, in this case, suspension, more than any other student. These findings have serious implications for the study of race, gender, criminal justice, and public opinion in American politics.

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

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