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Role of Race and Ethnicity in Gang Membership (From Street Gangs, Migration and Ethnicity, P 117-139, 2008, Frank van Gemert, Dana Peterson, and Inger-Lise Lien, eds. -- See NCJ-225264)

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2008
23 pages
In order to determine the role of race and ethnicity in gang membership, this chapter reports on findings from a survey of young adolescents in the United States that solicited information on respondents’ gang membership and demographic characteristics.
The findings suggest that researchers and policymakers should be more attentive to racial/ethnic differences in gangs and gang membership. The survey found that family structure did not exert the same influence on all of the racial groups identified in the survey (White, Black, Hispanic, and multiracial). Gang membership was relatively less common among single-parent Black and multiracial households than among two-parent families. White youth had significantly lower rates of self-reported involvement in serious violent offending, and Black gang youth reported the highest level of drug selling and weapon-carrying. Black gangs tended to be larger than other racial/ethnic groups. Regardless of race/ethnicity, gangs tended to be composed of both boys and girls. Gangs apparently engaged in a variety of offenses, although White gang youth reported less variety in their gang’s offending compared with other gang members. The survey used the definition of “gang” that emerged in a consensus among European gang researchers: “A youth gang, or troublesome youth group, is a durable, street-oriented youth group whose involvement in illegal activity is part of their group identity.” The survey involved a purposive sample of 15 schools located in 9 cities in 4 U.S. States. Only schools that offered law-related education were included in the surveys. A total of 2,353 students were enrolled in the 98 targeted classrooms. Of the 1,686 students who returned permission slips, 1,624 completed pretests, and 1,499 completed posttest questionnaires. The posttest data were the basis for the analyses presented in this chapter. Questionnaires were collected during the winter and spring of the 2004-5 school year. 4 tables, 5 notes, 33 references, and 2 appendices
Date Published: January 1, 2008