Race and Social Problems

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 296–312 | Cite as

Understanding Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Arrest: The Role of Individual, Home, School, and Community Characteristics

  • Lauren Nichol GaseEmail author
  • Beth A. Glenn
  • Louis M. Gomez
  • Tony Kuo
  • Moira Inkelas
  • Ninez A. Ponce


Contact with the justice system can lead to a range of poor health and social outcomes. While persons of color are disproportionately represented in both the juvenile and criminal justice systems, reasons for these patters remain unclear. This study sought to examine the extent and sources of differences in arrests during adolescence and young adulthood among blacks, whites, and Hispanics in the USA. Multilevel cross-sectional logistic regression analyses were conducted using data from waves I and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (n = 12,752 respondents). Results showed significantly higher likelihood of having ever been arrested among blacks, when compared to whites, even after controlling for a range of delinquent behaviors (odds ratio = 1.58, 95 % confidence interval = 1.27, 1.95). These black–white disparities were no longer present after accounting for racial composition of the neighborhood, supporting the growing body of research demonstrating the importance of contextual variables in driving disproportionate minority contact with the justice system.


Disparities Arrest Juvenile justice Criminal justice Multilevel model Social determinants of health 



The authors thank Dr. Xiao Chen from the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research and staff from the from the University of California, Los Angeles Institute for Digital Research and Education for their statistical support.


This work was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Advancing Translational Science, University of California, Los Angeles Clinical Translational Science Institute [Grant Number: TL1TR000121]. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and funded by Grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health Web site ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren Nichol Gase
    • 1
    Email author
  • Beth A. Glenn
    • 2
  • Louis M. Gomez
    • 3
  • Tony Kuo
    • 1
  • Moira Inkelas
    • 4
  • Ninez A. Ponce
    • 5
  1. 1.Division of Chronic Disease and Injury PreventionLos Angeles County Department of Public HealthLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health Policy and Management, UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity, Fielding School of Public Health, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer CenterUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Education Department, Graduate School of Education and Information StudiesUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Policy and Management, Fielding School of Public HealthUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  5. 5.Department of Health Policy and Management, Center for Health Policy Research, Fielding School of Public HealthUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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