A new study has claimed that nearly 50 percent of all black males and almost 40 percent of white males in the U.S. are arrested by the age of 23, hurting their ability to find work, attend school and participate in their communities.
According to the study, published in the journal Crime & Delinquency on Monday, the findings show how the risk of arrest varies across race and gender. The study analyzed national survey data from 1997 to 2008 of teenagers and young adults, and their arrest histories, which range from truancy and underage drinking to more serious and violent offenses.
“The study, which is the first to use nationally representative data to provide estimates of lifetime prevalence of arrest by race and sex, highlights the importance of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 97 cohort,” Shawn Bushway, a criminal justice professor at the University at Albany, said in a statement. “The NLSY97 is the only survey collected by the U.S. government that includes longitudinal data on arrest for a cohort over time.”
According to Robert Brame, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina and the study’s lead author, the most striking finding of the study is the race difference. The research pointed to a higher prevalence of arrest among black males but found 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 said. “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.”
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The study found that by age 18, 30 percent of black males, 26 percent of Hispanic males and 22 percent of white males have been arrested, and by the time they are 23 years old, the proportions increased to 49 percent, 44 percent and 38 percent respectively.
Among females, the arrest rate was higher among 23-year-olds than among those aged 18, but the variation between races was slight. At age 18, while the arrest rate was 12 percent for white females, it was 11.9 percent and 11.8 percent for black and Hispanic females, respectively. By age 23, arrest rates were 20 percent for white females and 18 percent and 16 percent for Hispanic and black females, respectively.
The researchers said that the study garnered national attention for providing the first look, since the 1960s, at arrest prevalence, and for its key finding that one in three people are arrested by the age of 23 in the country.
And, according to the researchers, the next step is to develop an understanding of the economic, social and law enforcement factors that can influence arrests, and examine the roles gender and race have to play in such arrests.