The effect of racial inequality on black male recidivism

Michael D. Reisig, William D. Bales, Carter Hay, Xia Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Macrostructural opportunity theorists posit that the unequal distribution of economic resources across racial groups promotes animosities among disadvantaged minorities, disrupts community integration, and fosters criminal activity. Guided by this framework, we hypothesize that Black ex-prisoners who reenter communities with high levels of racial inequality are more likely to commit new crimes. Support for this argument is found for a large group of males (N = 34,868) released from state prisons to 62 counties in Florida over a 2-year period. We also find evidence that racial inequality amplifies the adverse effects of person-level risk factors on recidivism for Black ex-inmates. In comparison, the effect of inequality on White male recidivism is far less meaningful. These findings underscore the need for researchers to consider social context when studying recidivism among Black males, and also support the efforts of correctional reformers who advocate for state resources to assist prisoner reentry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)408-434
Number of pages27
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Crime
  • Inequality
  • Recidivism
  • Reentry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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