New study: 49% of black men in the US have been arrested by age 23

49% of black males, 38% of white males in U.S. arrested by 23: Study

Is this an outgrowth of “tough on crime” legislation in the US, or something else?

Does anyone have comparable stats for arrest rates in other countries? I’m curious whether the US is an outlier in this area, or if this is consistent with other western liberal democracies.

Perhaps I can get some clarifications on the article.

For example, the article states the sample used was:

Why is this not a biased sample? Shouldn’t they sample 7,000 people, not 7000 people that claimed they’d been arrested?

The other thing I didn’t understand:

Given that more than a third of black, hispanics, and whites were arrested by 23, wouldn’t the arrests of asians and native americans have to be practically zero for there to only be a third of the population that had been arrested by 23?
Finally, assuming the above issues are just misunderstandings on my part, an arrest is not a conviction. For example, if the entire Delta Delta Delta fraternity is arrested the night of a particularly rowdy party for public drunkenness and disturbing the peace, and all charges are dropped the next day as they’re let out of the drunk tank, that’s not going to stop them from getting a job or living a successful life, but it will inflate the statistics. So the followup question would be - How many of these arrests resulted in a plea bargain or trial? (i.e. were not just summarily dropped)

Yeah, they are really cracking down on Walking While Black.

I’m a white male in the US, and I was arrested basically for having long hair. The cop charged me with DUI-drugs without any physical evidence and the case was later dropped without trial after they reviewed the blood test. After being arrested just for having long hair, I can see how black men get arrested just for being black.

Yeah I don’t get it either. But I’m not a stat guy. But as the article is written they took 7,000+ people who stated they had been arrested a a young age and made this study from them. So wouldn’t it be better stated that “49% of people arrested by age 23 are black” rather than “49% of black men have been arrested by age 23?” There is a big difference.

And why did they have to take a sample and rely on the veracity of those reporting? Crimes and arrests have been tracked on a national level for years to include the race of offenders. Why not use the primary source instead of hoping for your subjects to be truthful?

What am I missing?

You need to read the actual study, not the article summary, which is not correct. The authors took data from a survey conducted in 1997, which consisted pf about 7,000 young people (not just people who had be arrested - over 5,000 participants had not been arrested).

Of the people who had been arrested, about half were black etc…

The study is free and can be accessed here (pdf):

OK that makes more sense. I can see how there may be big flaws with that but it is much better than how the article is written.

That’s not quite right either. Of the black males in the study, 49% had been arrested by age 21, of the white males in the study, 38% had, etc.

Honestly, I’m surprised that the disparity is that narrow. As the study points out, the disparity in FBI arrest records is much greater.

Also somewhat interesting that there is no racial disparity among female arrestees.

No, those numbers specify “men”; the 1/3 of Americans includes women.

I haven’t read the whole study, but it seems to be based on self-reports. I have to wonder whether the people who reported being arrested really were or whether they were just stopped and questioned. I was once stopped and frisked and cuffed and questioned for walking funny but not formally arrested.* I suspect a lot of people wouldn’t make the distinction.

*I was speed-walking and sweating profusely along a public trail near the site of a vicious unprovoked attack that had occurred a few minutes earlier. A woman who was in the area but did not witness the attack reported to police that a suspicious looking person was “walking funny” in the area. They tracked me down and I was in cuffs about thirty seconds before the deputy received a radio call relaying the description of the real perpetrator, who did not resemble me at all.

An understandable confusion, I would say.

Yeah a disproportionately large number of arrestees are not Whites, but what really jumps out at me is that The Land Of the Free is incarcerating (maybe briefly) close to half its population by their mid-20s. Seems like that’s just a little bit fucked up.

The Perfect Master commented on the issue ten years ago:

Does the United States lead the world in prison population?:

Depends on what you mean by incarcerating. A large number of our arrests are for minor traffic violations that the offender does not take care of. More often than not the subject comes into police headquarters, posts a small amount of bail, gets their picture taken and goes home. Maybe it takes 15 minutes. But that would count as an arrest by this study. Is that really an important societal problem? There is a large prison population for more serious offenses. But if we are talking about just arrests, if we eliminate all the brief arrests for minor offenses like traffic and contempt I’m sure it will be a lot less than 50%.

No, the second paragraph of the news article says that they did not include minor traffic violations in the study.

I doubt there is any one answer, but from my experiences working with urban poor people, I would expect that there are some social factors that contribute to this:

-A legacy of broken family structure from generations of slavery and poverty, and the effects of gangs who “fill the void” for kids who do not have healthy families.
-High rates of drug addiction in poor urban neighborhoods. Drug addicts will do a lot of things that sober people would never do.
-Poor schools in many poor urban communities. How is a kid who can barely read and didn’t finish high school supposed to be successful in a law abiding career?

If you grew up in a poor neighborhood where you never met your father and your mother was a crack-addicted prostitute, I would feel comfortable wagering that you would probably end up with a criminal record too regardless of what color your skin is.

If you want to be part of the solution, I would highly recommend getting involved in a mentoring program such as Big Brothers Big Sisters. I think that offering positive role models to kids in chaotic environments is one of the most important things that an individual can do to change the direction of a kid’s life.

The problem is that too many job applications ask if you have ever been arrested. Not if you’ve ever been convicted. And unemployment is so high that companies don’t even have to give you a second look. “You’ve been arrested? Well you must be guilty of something.”

In my state we don’t arrest for minor traffic violations. If you don’t take care of the ticket it is the crime of contempt of court. Still very minor and is taken care of easily. It would count towards this study. The majority of our warrants are for contempt of court originally stemming from traffic violations.

There are about 15 million arrests in the US each year. Considering that men are arrested more than women, this isn’t too surprising that the numbers are that high. Granted there are a lot of duplicates and people getting arrested over and over.

What is surprising is that black women get arrested less than white women. I didn’t see that coming.

Fwiw, every time I’ve been to the US I’m just overwhelmed by the number of people in some kind of security orientated uniform, from military people through all those leves of policing to private emplyees. It looks like a permanent state of war.

RE the OP: I guess all those uniforms have to keep busy.