Capital Punishment (24): The Probability of Capital Punishment in the U.S., by Race

The U.S. population is about 300,000,000. Whites represent about 80%, or roughly 240,000,000. If you check the numbers of executions in the U.S., you’ll see that there were about 1,000 in the period from 1977 to 2005. 584 of those executions were of whites. That’s about 20 executions per year on average, meaning that whites have a chance of 1 in 12,000,000 of being executed.

There are about 40,000,000 African Americans, representing roughly 13 % of the U.S. population. 339 executions in the 1977-2005 period were of African Americans. That’s about 12 a year, meaning that blacks have a chance of 1 in 3,300,000 of being executed.

A black person in the U.S. is therefore almost 4 times more likely to be executed. Even if we assume that this higher probability of being executed correctly reflects a higher probability of being involved in crime that comes with capital punishment – and that’s something we shouldn’t assume, because it’s likely that there are injustices involved, e.g. inadequate legal representation and such – that shouldn’t put our minds at ease. We then still have to ask the question: why are blacks more likely to be involved in capital offences? Surely not because of their race. Something happens in society that leads to this outcome, and it’s likely that there are injustices involved: for example, inadequate education, poverty levels, discrimination etc.


4 thoughts on “Capital Punishment (24): The Probability of Capital Punishment in the U.S., by Race”

  1. There’s obviously a great deal of injustice and it’s clear capital punishment is immoral. Consider this though: Once arrested for murder, whites are more likely than blacks to be executed. (See here.) However, as the article points out, what matters even more is the race of the person murdered. See, e.g., this report by Amnesty International. People who murder white victims are much more likely to be put to death than those who murder black victims.


  2. You both make the same type of error.

    First, folks aren’t sentenced to death based upon popluation counts by race. They are sentenced to death based upon their committing of capital murder.

    Whites are roughly twice as likley to be executed for committing murder, as are blacks.

    Secondly, yes, those who murder whites are much more likley to be executed, but the reason has nothing to do with any type of racial bias. It is because whites are, overwhelmingly, the victims in capital murder cases.

    Please review:

    “Death Penalty Sentencing: No Systemic Bias”


  3. this is stupid. of course blacks have a higher chance. there’s practically ten times more whites so of course the numbers for whites will be smaller.


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