Nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males in the U.S. are arrested by age 23, which can hurt their ability to find work, go to school and participate fully in their communities.
A new study released Monday (Jan. 6) in the journal Crime & Delinquency provides the first contemporary findings on how the risk of arrest varies across race and gender, says Robert Brame, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina and lead author of the study.
The study is an analysis of national survey data from 1997 to 2008 of teenagers and young adults, ages 18, and their arrest histories, which run the gamut from truancy and underage drinking to more serious and violent offenses. The study excludes arrests for minor traffic violations.
Most striking are the race differences revealed in the study, Brame says. In particular, the research points to a higher prevalence of arrest among black males and little race variation in arrest rates among females.
"A problem is that many males – especially black males – are navigating the transition from youth to adulthood with the baggage and difficulties from contact with the criminal justice system," Brame says.
The negative impacts can be great, he says. "States vary on the age that adolescents are considered adults in the eyes of the criminal law, some as young as age 16 and 17," he says. "Criminal records that show up in searches can impede employment, reduce access to housing, thwart admission to and financing for higher education and affect civic and volunteer activities such as voting or adoption. They also can damage personal and family relationships."
Shawn Bushway, a criminal justice professor at the University at Albany who collaborated with Brame on the study, says they used data from the U.S. Department of Labor's National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort (NLYS97).