Race, Ethnicity, and Career Criminality

Curtis J. Tarver II
Matt DeLisi, Iowa State University

Research investigating racial and ethnic differences in career criminality has produced mixed results because researchers commonly sample only one racial group or limit their analysis to White and Black offenders. Other racial and ethnic groups are ignored. The current study examined the prevalence and characteristics of offenders who qualified for habitual offender status (minimum of 30 arrests) upon booking into an urban jail in the western United States. From 1995 to 2000, 500 offenders met the arrest criterion. The sample was racially heterogeneous, 52% White, 29% Hispanic, 12% Black, 6% Native American, and nearly 1% Asian. No significant differences existed among racial groups for a variety of offending characteristics, incluing chronicity, dangerousness, career span, and offending frequency. These findings in conjunction with the extant literature suggest that career criminals are an exceptional, pathological archetype that largely transcends race.

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Updated 05/20/2006