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The crisis of black men and what that means for society
A new analysis by The New York Times' Upshot blog sheds light on a problem inflicting the black community. - photo by JJ Feinauer
Chaos erupted in the suburban town of Ferguson, Missouri, last year after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot by a local police officer. Racial tensions flared in the area, and in some respects the country at large, leading to at least an attempt at a national conversation on race relations in America.

With the release of the Department of Justices' report on the actions of the Ferguson Police Department, one which found ample evidence of racial discrimination in the department (a separate report found no apparent wrongdoing by the officer in question), increasing attention has been drawn to the role the criminal justice system plays in black communities.

"The residents of Ferguson do not have a police problem. They have a gang problem," The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote after the release of the report. "That the gang operates under legal sanction makes no difference."

Other prominent black writers responded similarly, arguing, as Coates did, that the black community simply doesn't trust the criminal justice system anymore.

In fact, according to a Pew Research Center survey from 2013, 70 percent of African Americans believe police and the courts treat blacks unfairly.

It's within this context that The New York Times Upshot blog released a new set of visualized data that examines "Missing Black Men."

According to The Upshot, the ratio of black men to women is shockingly out of balance. The reason, authors Justin Wolfers, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy wrote, is mostly because of unusually high death and incarceration rates.

"African-American men have long been more likely to be locked up and more likely to die young, but the scale of the combined toll is nonetheless jarring," they wrote.

The gap between black men and women begins to appear during the teenage years and widens even further after that, according to The Upshot.

"The gender gap does not exist in childhood," the article says.

High incarceration rates in the black community has taken front and center in recent years, even causing an unusually bipartisan effort to curb it through reforms. One major concern, as has been the case with immigration reform, is how the current policies and approach impact families. It's black men who are in many instances fathers and always sons who suffer the most from the current climate.

"The disappearance of these men has far-reaching implications," The Upshot argued. "Their absence disrupts family formation, leading both to lower marriage rates and higher rates of childbirth outside marriage."

Both of those outcomes lower marriage rates and higher birth rates outside marriage have been shown to be significant indicators of cyclical poverty rates.
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