|3. New Jersey||12.38|
|6. New Mexico||10.29|
|7. North Dakota||10.05|
|8. South Dakota||10.02|
|9. Rhode Island||9.62|
|10. New York||9.35|
|12. New Hampshire||9.22|
|29. West Virginia||5.58|
|34. North Carolina||5.40|
|40. South Carolina||4.47|
The proximity-to-the-Canadian-border phenomenon is detectable. It's plausible to think that to some extent this is a consequence of whites behaving better the further north we go, while blacks are blacks, wherever they are. I'm skeptical, though, because it's not just whites who fare better as we head north--blacks do so as well, and the latitude-performance correlation is virtually identical for both races.
When Steve ran the numbers, he found a vigorous correlation of .62 between the 1997 black-white incarceration rate ratio and Kerry's share of the 2004 vote. As La Griffe du Lion has explained, this is largely attributable to stricter sentencing for criminal activity in red states than in blue states.
That remains the case with the fresher data, although the relationship has weakened. The correlation between the 2005 black-white rate ratio and McCain's share of the 2008 vote is .34 (p=.02). If red states were full of racist whites who wanted to irrationally throw large numbers of blacks in jail and blue states full of SWPLs who did not, we'd expect the correlation to run in the opposite direction. When it comes to closing the jail gap, red states do a better job of it than blue states do.
Fortunately for community organizers and activists everywhere, there is a silver lining in the (disgraceful!) nationwide trend towards tougher sentencing laws that has more people in the US behind bars now than ever before--the jail gap narrowed between 1997 and 2005 in a full 45 states. In only five lily white (and thus racist!) places--Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming--did it widen.
As someone who is keenly aware of the Hispanic tidal wave crashing onto our shores from the Gulf of Mexico and the southern end of our coastal border with the Pacific ocean, I would be remiss not to present a table showing Hispanic-white incarceration rate ratios by state. Unfortunately, data were not available in eleven states--AL, KS, ME, MD, MN, NM, NC, SD, VT, WI, and WY--that apparently do not inquire about (or at least publicly report on) whether or not prisoners are Hispanic:
|4. New York||4.47|
|5. New Hampshire||3.68|
|6. New Jersey||3.32|
|7. Rhode Island||3.30|
|8. North Dakota||3.18|
|27. South Carolina||1.15|
|37. West Virginia||0.54|
As Peter explained in the comments of a previous post, Puerto Ricans (virtually all of whom are Hispanic) in the US are heavily concentrated in the Northeast and fare especially poorly among Hispanic immigrants and their descendants in the US. That is clearly evident above, as the Northeast takes all the top spots.
Florida's Cuban population, while no longer constituting a majority of the state's Hispanics still comprises a sizable chunk of it, presumably makes the state look great on this ranking.
Hawaii's combination of a large military presence and relatively unintelligent whites help to place it at the very bottom of the list. Accounting for the fact that the Aloha state's Asian/PI population is distinctly less prosperous than Asians in the US as a whole, it's probably the most racially egalitarian state in the country.
The biggest surprise to me is Nevada, where Hispanics and whites are incarcerated at almost identical rates. Excepting New Mexico for which data are unavailable, Hispanics in the border states predictably all end up in jail more frequently than whites in those states do. Any ideas as to why Nevada bucks this trend? Michigan is also unexpected.
Excluding Alaska (there are Hispanics in Alaska? Yes, though fewer than 40,000 of them), the rest of the states where Hispanics are better behaved than whites are in the South, where whites are more prone to criminal activity than they are in the Midwest, Northeast, or Old Northwest.