Helms School of Government


Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice (PhD)


Jade Pumphrey


stereotype threat theory, self-categorization theory, social dominance theory, denominator effect, disproportionate arrest rates, skin tone, suspicion


Law | Sociology


The New York Times reported that Black Lives Matter was the third most-read subject of 2020. These articles brought to the forefront the question of disparity in arrest rates for darker-skinned people. Questioning arrest disparity is understandable because virtually everything known about disproportionate arrest rates has been a guess, and virtually all prior research on disproportionate arrest rates is questionable because of improper benchmarking (the denominator effect). Current research has highlighted the need to switch from demographic data to skin tone data and start over on disproportionate arrest rate research; therefore, this study explored the relationship between skin tone and disproportionate arrest rates. This study also sought to determine which of the three theories surrounding disproportionate arrests is most predictive of disproportionate rates. The current theories are that disproportionate arrests increase as skin tone gets darker (stereotype threat theory), disproportionate rates are different for Black and Brown people (self-categorization theory), or disproportionate rates apply equally across all darker skin colors (social dominance theory). This study used a quantitative exploratory quasi-experimental design using linear spline regression to analyze arrest rates in Alachua County, Florida, before and after the county’s mandate to reduce arrests as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the prison population. The study was exploratory as no previous study has used skin tone analysis to examine arrest disparity. The findings of this study redefines the understanding of the existence and nature of disparities in arrest rates and offer a solid foundation for additional studies about the relationship between disproportionate arrest rates and skin color.