30% of Americans Arrested by Age 23, Study Finds

Seattle Times, December 19, 2011

About 30 percent of Americans by age 23 have been arrested at least once for something other than a traffic violation, increasing their chances of professional and family strife, researchers say.

By age 18, about 16 percent to 27 percent of teenagers have been arrested at least once, according to a study released Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Youths with arrest records have lower earnings, longer periods of unemployment and a greater risk of family conflict than those without, according to the study. The previous best estimate of arrests for nontraffic offenses, done in 1965, showed that about 22 percent of U.S. adults had been apprehended at least once by age 23.


The study did not look at racial or regional differences, but other research has found higher arrest rates for black men and for youths living in poor urban areas.


The study analyzed data collected as part of the federal government’s National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The 7,335 participants were nationally representative and ranged in age from 12 to 16 when they were enrolled in the survey in 1996.

The first interviews were conducted in 1997. The surveys continued through 2008 asking a variety of questions about participants’ activities including whether they’d been arrested by police. {snip}



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  • Whirlwinder

    Very interesting statistic. 30% All of the money spent on useless statistics. Unless we have the will to take action to address the problems-what difference does it make. I suppose watching the percentages creep up year to year gives the statisticians a job. And we need more jobs, right.

  • Jefferson

    Among African Americans and Hispanics, it must be well over 50% who have been arrested at least once by the time they are 23.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, there was a racial breakdown. 37% of those who were arrested were White. 48% of those arrested for drug related charges were White.

  • HH

    No 30% of White Americans are arrested by age 23 – no way, no how! There is no doubt who or what is driving a figure that high!!

  • Simonetta

    I was thinking about this topic a few months ago and did some back-of-the-napkin calculations. About 500000 people a year arrested for possession-of-marijuana, times about 40 years since 1971 when Nixon decided to punish Vietnam war protesters by focusing massive amounts of law-enforcement resources on they liked to do (smoke weed). This comes to about 20 million people, give or take a few.

    This is about 1 in 10 of the American population between the ages of 15 and 55. This isn’t the number of people who have maybe once or twice tried pot at a party long ago when they were young. This is the number of people who have been arrested, tried, and convicted (same thing in Soviet-style American drug courts) of this so-called ‘crime’.

    It’s amazing (given that presidental elections are decided, at most, on a few percentage points of the total vote) that some cantidate for president hasn’t just said “Vote for me and I will give an general amnesty to simple weed possession convictions to anyone who has no other convictions in three years”. He or she would get an instant 20 million votes! Regardless of their other political positions. Sooner or later someone is going to figure this out, probably Ron Paul.

    I may anger or annoy other Amren readers, but that is just the way it is. The time has come to free the weed. If you abhor marijuana use, fine, I can respect your position. And I’ll make sure that you or your family are not exposed to the sight and smell of my indulgence. But please don’t think we are going to have another generation of young people having to put up with reefer madness for another 20 years.

    Besides, we don’t need pot laws to extort money from the young people. We already have plans to arrest 50% of the young people for listening to ‘illegal’ MP3 song files. And the other 50% will be arrested for falling behind on their $100000 student loan debt while working minimum-wage internships. 50 million young people at @$2000-$10000 each in fines, lawyer fees, court costs, and property impoundments…well it adds up.

    Have a nice day.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sceptical that 30% of the US population has been arrested by age 23. I have no doubt this number would be much lower for certain races, and much higher for certain races as well. But of course, in this uber-PC world, it’s too taboo to even mention that there are differences. What a bizarre world we live in.

  • Mike H.

    I’m 23, and have never been arrested once. About the only crime I’ve ever committed is driving with expired tags for a few months due to lack of funds.

    I don’t know what to say to this article other than express my complete lack of surprise. As someone who lives in a poor, urban and heavily black area I’m only surprised the number isn’t higher.

  • Anonymous

    Racial issues aside, America could do a lot to reduce this by ending its terrible and wrong ‘war on drugs’. The only losers would be the DEA (whose budget has increased 4,000% since 1971) and the brutal drug cartels who have made untaxed BILLIONS with this modern day prohibition nonsense. Let free people decide for themselves what they are going to smoke or ingest into their bodies.

  • Fer de Lance

    The time has come to free the weed.

    What on earth are you talking about? What “reefer madness?” Hello? This is 2011, almost 2012, not 1965. NO ONE is screaming about jailing pot users. Geez, who cares?

    Pot has been decriminalized almost everywhere, it is a LOW priority criminal offense. Possession of pot has been reduced from a federal offense to a misdemeanor, infraction or petty offense in many states. In Alaska, personal possession of one oz. of pot is legal. States like California allow medical marijuana.

    If you want to smoke pot, go right ahead, I REALLY don’t care. Just stay off the roads, we have enough drunk drivers as it is.

  • hcl

    Hmm, considering girls rarely come under arrest, we have something approaching 44% of males getting arrested. And if 30% are white, then…

    … long story short – if you calculate the numbers, it means nearly 100% of black males and hispanic males are arrested at least once by age 23.

  • Anonymous

    These number seem very high. Without spending time on researching this, I note in the excerpt the confusion between the concept of being arrested and apprehended. One is being taken into legal custody, the other doesn’t necessarily involve arrest.

  • jdavis

    Number 5, I agree to free drug use for all who wish, legalize all drugs and take the profit away from criminals and allow the government to screw it up like everything else they touch.

    Private companies can fire or never hire anyone on drug usage evidence with no legal repercusion, eliminate druggies from all government handouts (except drugs), and allow the gifted and straights to thrive.

    By the way Simonetta, the economies of many countries would collapse overnight, and many of our banks would fail world wide. Drug gangs and banks have a cozy deal, as well as black ops within governments, do you seriously believe they will give that up to make you potheads happy?

  • Question Diversity

    5 Simonetta:

    Just because 500,000 people are popped every year for 40 years for weed, that doesn’t mean that 20 million unique individuals have in 40 years. Some of those were popped more than once.

    If weed legalization was such a political winner, why are weed ballot propositions hit and miss at best? They lose more often than they win, and usually when they win, they win based on the “medical marijuana” angle. (In reality, there is no such thing as medicinal marijuana. One element of cannabis resin is helpful for certain patients of certain afflictions, but that has already been isolated into the legal prescription drug Marinol. Medicinal marijuana is basically the last refuge of the stoner scoundrel.)

    I want a different drug policy, mainly because the current one wrecks the proper relationship between citizen and state.

    However, realize that a lot of people doing time for drugs really did a lot more than that. The prosecutors had to bargain all their violent crimes down to drugs in exchange for real time on the drug charge, because the black juries won’t convict, and their victims are too scared or too anti-white to testify. Technical violations relating to firearms often serve the same function, as a backup victimless fallback crime for the cops to use to squeeze snitching out of recalcitrant blacks or for prosecutors to have something for plea bargaining fodder.

  • Anonymous

    Question Diversity asks-

    “If weed legalization was such a political winner, why are weed ballot propositions hit and miss at best?”

    Because Americans have proven themselves singularly vulnerable to propaganda, that’s why. They still think if the government does something, there must be a good reason. Reefer madness propaganda has been at work for over 70 years now. It saved the timber and paper pulp industries from having to compete with hemp paper to this day. The average American boob does not know this.

    For the same reason that ten years after 9/11 with no major terror attack on America people still fear the Islamoterrorist under every rock so much they submit to molestation at the airport with a casual “who cares if it’ll save your life.”

    For the same reason that my grandfather thinks a vote for Ron Paul is a vote against Jesus, because Ron Paul would abandon Israel to defend herself, and the Jews are “Jesus’ chosen people.”

    Go back and ponder your comment about 1984. It’s not just the liberals that trade in this nonsense.

  • Anonymous

    You guys can say whatever you want, but Marijuana and other drugs should be legal. People should be able to use any drugs they want to use, IF they want to. Just like people are now free to drink any kind of alcohol, IF they want to. Or not to IF they don’t want to. I am not “pro-drugs” as much as I am PRO-CHOICE. Let people decide for themselves about drug use, not their high-minded government.

    BTW, FER De LANCE, there is a huge difference between decriminalization and legalization.

  • Ken

    I wouldn’t be totally surprised if say 20% of whites have been arrested by age 30. There’s plenty of petty crimes one can be arrested for, such as public intox (college), DUI, minor shop lifting, etc. Plus it’s also an indication of big government, police state mentality. I once got in a minor fight with my brother and I got arrested for “spousal abuse.”

  • Question Diversity

    14 Anonymous:

    I do know that in the early days of the Republic, a large percentage of the Federal government’s revenue came from excise taxes on hemp.

    You mention the fundagelicals who think that God will smite us and make us poor if we stop cutting checks payable to the I-country. Try this response on them: Our money is making them weaker and less able to respond to threats because they have to make their own national defense subservient to the whims of Nobel Peace Prize-seeking American politicians. Ron Paul would defund both the I-country and defund even more the I-country’s enemies, guess who comes out ahead in that deal. The I-country can easily do without five gigabucks a year, its enemies will have almost nothing should we pull their foreign aid. If that doesn’t convince your grandfather, then he’s completely impervious to reason. The essence of hell is a place where reason and rationality falls on deaf ears.

    Now, to Ron Paul, I think he and his drug/leg cause, as well as the drug/leg or drug/decrim cause (yes, peanut gallery, I know there’s a big difference), could use a lot better marketing. Play up the angle of rational people being able to use their own frontal lobes to make the right decision when faced with the bad choice of using and imbibing any dangerous substance, legal or illegal, sniffing fabric softener or snorting crack. But for PR purposes, NEVER promulgate the notion that you think it’s okay for people to use this stuff, and constantly combat any attempt to frame you and the debate in that fashion. Play up the civil liberties and good government angle, bring up the FBI raiding the wrong houses and killing people in the process, abuses of power, etc.

  • Anonymous

    In our small all white New England town more than half of the youths have been arrested for having a beer before the age of 21. If you take those “Burqua” laws out of the equation, I assume our “lawless” youth would be just as “criminal” as the Germans and the Swiss. But then our public “servants” would have to find real jobs or at least try to control the real lawlessness in the inner cities.

  • The Bobster

    It saved the timber and paper pulp industries from having to compete with hemp paper to this day. The average American boob does not know this.


    Here we go again – hemp, the last refuge of the pothead. Bamboo could do everything that hemp does at a far cheaper price, but they never mention that.

  • Soprano Fan

    To those who think legalizing narcotics is a great idea, I pose this question:

    Would you fly on an airplane, knowing the pilot was coked up, or travel on an interstate bus, with the driver on meth or LSD?

    Neither would I.

  • Fer de Lance

    BTW, FER De LANCE, there is a huge difference between decriminalization and legalization.

    Yeah, wow, thanks for pointing that out. Otherwise, I would have never made the connection that “legalization” and “decriminalization” have two different meanings and are not the same thing.

    I guess I was dead wrong when I wrote that pot has been mostly decriminalized everywhere (NOT LEGALIZED) and is actually legal to possess (NOT SELL) in small amounts in some states such as Alaska.

    BTW: I am for the legalization of drugs, the sooner the better.

  • Question Diversity


    We can forget about the argument to legalize drugs in order to bork the Mex/Lat cartels. They now have their hands in so many legit industries as part of their money laundering activities that if drugs ever become non-lucrative, they’ll simply migrate to their “legit” enterprises.

  • Question Diversity

    Soprano Fan:

    Two words: Drug tests.

    They’re always given even with those drugs being illegal, and they’ll continue to be given even if those drugs become legal. In the heavy construction trades, workers get alcohol tests to make sure they haven’t been drinking recently, and alcohol is a legal substance.

  • T

    Question Diversity–you are incorrect as to your questioning the efficacy of smoked marijuana. Marijuana that is smoked (or vaporized) bypasses the nausea and vomiting problems that many patients have. Why would you give a vomiting patient a pill?? As to the hazards of smoking marijuana, there are vaporizers that negate the “harshness” factor of burning marijuana for ingestion. Vaporizers work by heating up the quantity of marijuana to a certain temperature well below the rate of combustion. This releases the tetrahydrocannibinoid compounds without combustion being necessary.

    Studies (by highly respected researchers) note that marijuana does NOT have the same effect on the lungs as tobacco. There are many less carcinogenic compounds in marijuana compared to tobacco.

    Marijuana is a vasodilator (opens up blood vessels); tobacoo is a vasoconstrictor (closes up blood vessels). Asthmatic patients have benefited by ingesting marijuana through vaporization.

    Marijuana is the most researched substance on the planet. Of course the naysayers will always say that “more research is needed”. There will NEVER be enough “studies” to satisfy the naysayers.

    One of the reasons for marijuana prohibition (even for medical use) is that it cannot be patented, is easily grown and would put a lot of conventional “drug therapies” on the trash heap.

    To date, NO ONE has ever died as a result of marijuana ingestion.

    It should be noted that under president Nixon, a study was commissioned that came up with the conclusion that marijuana should be decriminalized. Of course the study was quashed and its findings ignored because it did not square with the “drug war” mentality of the day. The TRUTH was ignored . . .

  • Anonymous

    Reply to Soprano Fan at #20:

    “To those who think legalizing narcotics is a great idea, I pose this question:”

    “Would you fly on an airplane, knowing the pilot was coked up, or travel on an interstate bus, with the driver on Meth or LSD?”

    “Neither would I.”

    Gosh, I don’t know? Would you fly on an airplane with a pilot intoxicated from drinking half a bottle of Jack Daniel’s?

    Would you travel on a bus with a driver who was smashed from drinking a six-pack of beers?

    How about a serious and mature discussion on ending the awful “war on drugs” and not a ridiculous strawman argument, for a change?

  • Question Diversity

    24 T:

    If you’re saying that nebulized Marinol is more effective than the pill, then I’m willing to listen to this argument. But I am not willing to entertain the notion that smoking cannabis resin is somehow good for you, because the heavy metal toxicity and the hallucinogenic agents of cannabis resin cause mental psychosis (hint: Nutbar of Tucson).

  • Anonymous

    Reply to Question Diversity at #26:

    Lets assume your 100% right in saying smoking cannabis is not good for you. Okay. So what? Is smoking tobacco good for you? Is eating a diet of fast food junk good for you? Is binge drinking good for you? Tobacco, alcohol and McDonalds are not illegal are they?

  • Question Diversity


    You just made my point for me. There are plenty of legal substances with which people can ruin themselves, and most people don’t, because most people have the brains and frontal lobes to distinguish between good ideas and bad. Make the illegal substances legal, and the same sensible people will continue to be sensible, the same potheads, stoners and dopeheads will continue to be such. In fact, it would probably go in the other direction, because once you stop telling young people that drugs are bad, they’ll quit being curious about it.

    We should require teenagers to do drugs then wage a war on broccoli.

  • Lygeia

    I’m glad to see all of the pro-marijuana legalization comments. This shows people are waking up.