Race, Ethnicity, and Serious and Violent Juvenile Offending
Darnell F. Hawkins, John H. Laub, Janet L. Lauritsen, and Lynn Cothern
Sources of Data
Serious and Violent Offending, by Race and Ethnicity
Explaining Racial and Ethnic Differences
Reframing the Research and Policy Agenda
For Further Information
Darnell F. Hawkins, Ph.D., is Professor of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at
Chicago; John H. Laub, Ph.D., is Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, College Park; Janet L. Lauritsen, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; and Lynn Cothern, Ph.D., is Senior Writer-Editor for the Juvenile Justice Resource Center in Rockville, MD.
Points of view or opinions expressed in this
document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent
the official position or policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes
the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics,
the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims
| From the Administrator
If we are to successfully address the issue of minority overrepresentation in the juvenile justice system, it is critical to understand the interrelationships among race, ethnicity, and serious and violent juvenile offending and their policy implications. The data sources
that could lead to such understanding, however, evidence
deficiencies. The most commonly used data, official crime
statistics, are limited by the fact that they represent solely
those law-violating activities that result in arrest. The
primary limitation of self-report offending data is the small
sample size typical of such surveys.
This Bulletin details the strengths and weaknesses of
these data sources and describes the findings of alternative
data sources, including OJJDP's Program of Research on the
Causes and Correlates of Delinquency.
Although researchers have long been aware of racial and
ethnic differences in serious and violent juvenile offending,
interpreting these variances has been problematic. The
Bulletin, however, offers several explanations derived from
the research literature.
I hope that the information this Bulletin provides will
help reframe the research and policy agenda in a manner that
strengthens the juvenile justice system and improves the
safety and welfare of all Americans.
John J. Wilson