No Evidence of Racial Discrimination in Criminal Justice Processing

Kevin Beaver et al., Personality and Individual Differences, March 1, 2013

Abstract

One of the most consistent findings in the criminological literature is that African American males are arrested, convicted, and incarcerated at rates that far exceed those of any other racial or ethnic group. This racial disparity is frequently interpreted as evidence that the criminal justice system is racist and biased against African American males. Much of the existing literature purportedly supporting this interpretation, however, fails to estimate properly specified statistical models that control for a range of individual-level factors. The current study was designed to address this shortcoming by analyzing a sample of African American and White males drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Analysis of these data revealed that African American males are significantly more likely to be arrested and incarcerated when compared to White males. This racial disparity, however, was completely accounted for after including covariates for self-reported lifetime violence and IQ. Implications of this study are discussed and avenues for future research are offered.

[Editor’s Note: The full paper is available here.]

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