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Race, Ethnicity, and Serious and Violent Juvenile Offending

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2000
8 pages
This Bulletin describes the short-term national trends for offending patterns among juveniles by race and ethnicity and summarizes research findings on racial and ethnic differences in chronic juvenile offending; recommendations are offered for improving understanding of these differences, and implications are discussed for guiding prevention and intervention efforts.
The Bulletin first reviews the strengths and weaknesses of official and self-report data sources on serious and violent juvenile offending. The findings of alternative data sources are provided, including the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency. Data from the 1998 Uniform Crime Reports indicate that differential rates of arrest for crime are related to race. Arrests of white juveniles (under age 18) constituted 71 percent of all juvenile arrests compared with 26 percent for black youth. American Indian or Alaskan Native and Asian or Pacific Islanders accounted for 1 and 2 percent, respectively. Black youths were overrepresented, given the fact that they compose 15 percent of the juvenile population compared with 79 percent white and 5 percent other races. Black youths accounted for 42 percent of arrests for violent crimes, compared with 55 percent for white youth. Juvenile involvement in crime by race has been generally consistent over the past several decades; however, the racial gap in homicide rates widened dramatically between 1986 and 1994. Self-report studies that use broader measures of delinquency, such as the National Youth Survey, show inconclusive patterns of racial differences in the rates of delinquency for blacks and whites. The causes of violence appear to be similarly rooted in structural differences across communities and cities, regardless of race. Because of this, it is essential to compare the community contexts within which black and white youth are raised, and to do this, multilevel studies across all racial and ethnic groups are needed. Multilevel research designs and theories that reflect a variety of analytic methods can further the study of serious and violent juvenile crime especially when attempting to identify and account for ethnic and racial differences. 56 references

Date Published: June 1, 2000