NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 28, 2007

The number of inmates in adult correctional facilities in the United States has topped two million for the first time, but in a reversal from 2000, more Americans now live in college dormitories than in prisons, according to the Census Bureau.


  • Some 2.3 million Americans live in college and university dormitories compared with 2.1 million in adult correctional institutions.
  • The number of state and federal prisoners in 2006 was more than double the prison population in 1990 and up slightly from nearly 2 million in 2000.
  • Women accounted for 10 percent of the inmates in 2006, compared with 8 percent in 1990.

Among people living in group quarters:

  • Whites were almost twice as likely to be living in a dormitory as in prison.
  • Asians were nine times more likely to be in a college dorm than in prison.
  • Blacks and Hispanics were about three times more likely to be imprisoned than living in a dormitory.

However, while black male prisoners outnumber black men living in college dorms, more young black men (18- to 24-year-olds) are enrolled in college:

  • In 2003, according to Justice Department figures, 193,000 black college-age men were in prison.
  • While 132,000 black college-age men were living on campus, an additional 400,000 or so were attending college but living someplace else.

Source: Sam Roberts, "College Dwellers Outnumber the Imprisoned," New York Times, September 27, 2007.

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