Race/Ethnicity and Trends in Violent Crime: White-Black, White-Hispanic, and Black-Hispanic Comparisons in Youth and Adult Arrests for Violent Crimes, 1980-2000

Ben Feldmeyer, The Pennsylvania State University
Darrell Steffensmeier, The Pennsylvania State University

Our analysis examines arrest trends in violent crime broken out by age and race-ethnicity (white, black, Hispanic), using 1980-2000 arrest statistics from Pennsylvania and California. Key objectives of the analysis are: 1) to offer systematic comparisons of racial-ethnic (i.e., white, black, and Hispanic) patterns of violent crime and changes in those patterns over the 1980-2000 period; and 2) to estimate age x race-ethnicity effects on criminal offending both currently and over time - by comparing age-crime distributions (juvenile, adult) across the race-ethnic groups and by examining changes in those distributions over the 1980-2000 period.

Our analysis focuses on the index-violent crimes of homicide, robbery, forcible rape, and aggravated assault, and on the total violent crime index which combines all four offenses. Demographic-specific resident population numbers for Pennsylvania and California will be used to calculate age-speciic and race-specific offending rates following the procedures outlined in the 1969 Report of the National Commission on the Causes of Violence. The Census Bureau provides complete census numbers for 1970, 1980, 1990, and 2000 and estimates for the non-census years. These rates will be used first to provide straightforward assessments of age and race-ethnic differences in violent offending (e.g., in plots over time). Second, the rates will be used to calculate racial/ethnic differences in arrests for violent offending, expressed as the percentage of all arrests for each offense category which involve a specific race/ethnic group, adjusting for the distribution of each comparison group in the population at large. This measure can be thought of as the percent of total arrests that would be accounted for by given racial/ethnic group if every group were equal in population. It can be computed to compare the violent offending of a comparison group (e.g. defined as a racial/ethnic group) to a reference group (e.g., defined as another racial/ethnicl group or as the total). Time-series techniques will be used to test statistically for similarities and differences across race-ethnic and age subgroups.

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Updated 05/20/2006