Assessing the Race Crime and Ethnicity Crime Relationship in a Sample of Serious Adolescent Delinquents

Publication Date: February 2008

Publisher: MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice (ADJJ)

Author(s): Robert W. Brame; Alex R. Piquero

Research Area: Social conditions

Keywords: Self-reports; Official records; Ethnicity; Crime

Type: Report

Coverage: Pennsylvania Arizona


Official record studies consistently show that Blacks exhibit higher levels of involvement in criminal offending than Whites do. Although self-report studies suggest somewhat lower levels of Black overrepresentation in criminal offending activity (especially with less serious forms of crime), there appears to be considerable evidence that Blacks are disproportionately involved in serious crime. Yet most of this evidence is based on data from broad crosssections of the general population. To date, there is little evidence on which to base inferences about the relationship between race and criminal involvement within serious offender populations. In this article, the authors use both official record and self-report data on samples of serious adolescent offenders in Philadelphia and Phoenix to reach a better understanding of the relationship between race and criminal activity. The analysis suggests that consistent race differences of the kind normally seen in the criminological literature are not evident in our sample of serious offenders.