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Neighborhood Context of Racial And Ethnic Disparities In Arrest

NCJ Number
Demography Volume: 45 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2008 Pages: 55-77
Date Published
February 2008
23 pages

In order to assess the role of social context in explaining racial and ethnic disparities in arrests, this study used a multilevel, longitudinal research design that combined individual-level data with contextual data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN).


The study showed that Black youths face multiple layers of disadvantage that increase the likelihood that they will be arrested compared to other racial and ethnic groups. This disadvantage stems from unstable family structure and deleterious neighborhood conditions, but with residual arrest differences still left to be explained. Concentrated poverty in a neighborhood explained a large portion of group differences in arrests, particularly in comparing arrest rates for Blacks and Whites. The study also found that a neighborhood's general tolerance of deviance was related to arrest rates; however, after considering the interaction between neighborhood tolerance of deviance and criminal offending, the probability of getting arrested following the commission of a crime was lower in high-tolerance neighborhoods. Regarding the influence of family factors on arrests, findings indicate that immigrant generational status, parental marital status, and socioeconomic status were all significantly associated with arrest; however, family structural characteristics mitigated a direct relationship between concentrated poverty and arrest rate. The author recommends that more research be conducted in order to reach a more definitive comparative identification of factors connected to the demographics of a neighborhood. The study sample was drawn from the PHDCN, a multiwave study of the factors that influence human development and antisocial behavior of Chicago youth. Seven cohorts of youth were examined based on age at baseline. The current study focused on the 12-, 15-, and 18-year-old cohorts. A random sample of 80 neighborhood clusters were selected, stratified by racial/ethnic composition and socioeconomic status. 6 tables, 5 figures, and 31 references

Date Published: February 1, 2008