Demographic Patterns of Cumulative Arrest Prevalence By Ages 18 and 23

Crime Delinq. 2014 Apr;60(3):471-486. doi: 10.1177/0011128713514801.


In this study, we examine race, sex, and self-reported arrest histories (excluding arrests for minor traffic violations) from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY; N = 7,335) for the period 1997 through 2008 covering cumulative arrest histories through ages 18 and 23. The analysis produces three key findings: (1) males have higher cumulative prevalence of arrest than females; and (2) there are important race differences in the probability of arrest for males but not for females. Assuming the missing cases are missing at random, about 30% of black males have experienced at least one arrest by age 18 (vs. about 22% for white males); by age 23 about 49% of black males have been arrested (vs. about 38% for white males). Earlier research using the NLSY showed that the risk of arrest by age 23 was 30%, with nonresponse bounds [25.3%, 41.4%]. This study indicates that the risk of arrest is not evenly distributed across the population. Future research should focus on the identification and management of collateral risks that often accompany arrest experiences.

Keywords: arrest; crime; criminal behavior; developmental outcomes.