Black and white Americans sell and use drugs at similar rates, but black Americans are 2.7 times as likely to be arrested for drug-related offenses.
The disparate criminal justice experience of black Americans has played an important role in reform discussions. Differences in incarceration rates are stark: in 2007 a black man between the ages of 18 and 25 without a high school diploma was more than three times more likely to be incarcerated than a non-Hispanic white man of the same age and education level (Raphael 2011).
However, it is challenging to relate rates of criminal activity to differences in punishment. Data limitations make it helpful to focus on one type of criminal activity—drug-related crimes—and to allow for comparison by race between reported rates of selling and using illicit drugs to drug-related arrests, sentences, and incarceration.