New Study Reveals that Almost Half of Black Males are Arrested Before the Age of 23 Compared to 40 Percent of White Males

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A new study of youth arrests released in the journal Crime & Delinquency is the first national study regarding the risk of arrest with respect to gender and age. The report evaluates survey data from 1998-2008, authored by Robert Brame, criminology professor at the University of South Carolina and Shawn Bushway, a criminal justice professor at the University of Albany. 

By the age of 23, 38 percent of white males in America are arrested and that number jumps up to 44 percent for Hispanic males and 49 percent for black males. For females, however, that number is significantly lower and race doesn’t seem to play a role, white females having the highest instance of arrest at 20 percent by age 23.

According to the press release, those early arrests can have consequences throughout their lives, impeding their access to education or work, and keep them from participating in their respective communities. The problem, according to Brame is that for those arrested young, they “are navigating the transition from youth to adulthood with the baggage and difficulties from contact with the criminal justice system.”

The study excluded arrests for minor traffic violations, and that category has the potential to be highly relevant. It does not take a huge leap of the imagination to see how young black teenagers in a car could have a significantly higher risk of being detained after a traffic stop than white teenagers, given the trends Brame and Bushway discovered above.

The authors suggest in the Abstract that “[f]uture research should focus on the identification and management of collateral risks that often accompany arrest experiences.” They believe that contact with the criminal justice system at an early age can have more of an impact than other factors such as media consumption and education. 


NOTE: This article was updated to cut a leftover line from an earlier draft.