the census bureau has released new group quarters estimates for 2006, reporting on americans who live in institutions such as prisons, nursing homes, and college dormitories. the racial disparities have been widely reported, but the sex distributions also tell a story. i created the charts below based on this census table.
roughly two million americans are housed in each of three types of institutions — about 2.3 million in college and university dormitories, 2.1 million in adult correctional institutions, and 1.8 million in nursing homes. the picture seems clear: prisons and jails remain overwhelmingly male institutions, while nursing homes are predominantly female institutions. there are about 9.4 times more men than women in prisons and jails, but about 2.2 times more women than men in nursing homes. college dorms are more evenly split — about 53.3 percent female and 46.7 percent male. the nursing home disparity, i’d imagine, is due in large part to women’s greater longevity.
one can rearrange these data to get a better look at the contribution of each type of residency to the total number of women and men housed in group quarters. over 53 percent of the 3.5 million men housed in these three institutional settings were incarcerated, relative to about 7 percent of the 2.7 million women in these institutions.
of course, one shouldn’t read too much into this sort of bivariate presentation. breaking these data out by age, race, and gender would likely show a triple-whammy of outsized incarceration rates among young, african american, males relative to all other groups.