The Impact of First Juvenile Arrests on School Attendance and Performance

Paul J. Hirschfield, Northwestern University

Juvenile justice intervention may fail in its mission to rehabilitate youth if it hinders their attendance and performance in school. Labeling, defiance, and social capital theories and the spread of exclusionary school policies each portend such effects, especially for first arrests. A staggered replication design will assess the impact of the first arrests between 1992 and 1999 of 517 youth black and Latino youth who were enrolled in seventh (n=95), eighth (n=154), ninth (n=178) or tenth (n=90) grades when they were arrested. The subsequent educational performance of first-time arrestees from each grade seven through nine will be compared, separately, to that of youth from the same grade who are first arrested during the subsequent grade. Propensity score methods control for remaining selection differences such as involvement in delinquency and neighborhood differences. Hierarchical models (that account for school or neighborhood clustering) of changes in test scores, in GPA, credits, and truancy as well as the odds of dropping out and grade retention will be computed for appropriate grades. The findings will suggest individual and social factors as well as educational (e.g. alternative school enrollment) and juvenile justice inputs (days in pre-trial detention) that shape educational outcomes for juvenile offenders.

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Updated 05/20/2006