Race, Class, and Gender in the Politics of Incarceration in the United States

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The growth of incarceration in the United States, a symptom of the concomitant broader institutionalization of a ‘carceral state’, is unquestionably one of the most significant developments in the nation's history. Despite this significance, the public response to the growth and deleterious consequences of incarceration has been notably restrained. This dissertation considers how the seeming lack of public opposition to carceral growth relates to its historical concentration among relatively disadvantaged Americans, namely low-income black Americans. Through a content analysis of U.S. news media coverage of incarceration, a survey of a prominent civil rights organization advocating on behalf of black Americans, and a survey experiment on the sources of white Americans’ support for incarcerating low-income black women, I show that racial, class, and gender disadvantage are intimately connected to the politics underlying carceral growth. In doing so, the dissertation contributes to research on the political sources and consequences of carceral growth, political inequality, political communications, political preference formation, and the politics of social identity in the United States.

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  • 02/13/2018
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