Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

John K. Cochran, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Lynch, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lorie A. Fridell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ojmarrh Mitchell, Ph.D.


conflict theory, minority threat, punishment, sociology of law


Incarceration rates vary substantially around the world. However, systematic cross-national comparisons examining such variation are rare. Using Donald Black’s theory of law, and further informed by other theories in the sociology of punishment with conceptual overlap, the purpose of this study is to evaluate the structural and cultural factors that influence incarceration rates around the world. Using data from the World Prison Brief, World Values Survey, CIA World Factbook, and other international datasets, this study evaluates a series of ordinary least squares regressions in 66 nations. This study is one of few macrosocial tests of Black’s theory of law to incorporate all theoretical dimensions, and it is the first to model proposed nonlinear relationships. Overall, the results identify multiple social dimensions associated with the scale of carceral systems throughout the world. The results also provide evidence for an “American Exceptionalism” hypothesis of incarceration.