In speaking about the "Jena 6" case last week, the Rev. Jesse Jackson repeated the oft-heard line that there are "more blacks in jail than college." (In addition to televised reports (CNN), his words were also reported in articles like this one and this one.)
Sorry, Reverend, but the line is just not true. In fact, the Washington Post addressed this myth last month in an article about a new documentary from a black filmmaker. (Emphasis mine:)
In 2005, according to the Census Bureau, there were 864,000 black men in college. According to Justice Department statistics, there were 802,000 in federal and state prisons and jails, "even with the old heads holding on," [director Janks] Morton says.
Between the ages of 18 and 24, however, black men in college outnumber those incarcerated by 4 to 1.
The WaPo article profiled the film from new director Janks Morton. It's called "What Black Men Think," and it "explores the stereotypes and statistics that label black men, black families, black women, [and] black children" (WaPo).
(HT: The Larry Elder radio show (KABC, XM, Sirius). Several times on his show on Thursday (9/20/07), Larry played the audio of Rev. Jackson voicing the falsehood.)
[UPDATE, 9/24/07, 8:25PM EDT: After further research, the basic fact remains the same: Jackson is still incorrect. A couple readers had some questions about the numbers from the WaPo article.
According to this October 2005 survey from the U.S. Census Bureau (click 'Table 1' 'black only'), there were 2,298,000 blacks enrolled in college at the time of the 2005 survey. That number exceeds the total number of inmates of all races in custody in state prisons, federal prisons, and local jails: 2,1186,230. Repeat: That's inmates of all races. That number comes from a count on June 30, 2005, and announced in this Department of Justice report (.pdf file) (See first sentence on page one and also tables 1 and 12.)
What's up with the different numbers we see above? I dunno, but Jackson's claim still appears way off.]