Race and Social Problems

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 313–325 | Cite as

Coloring the War on Drugs: Arrest Disparities in Black, Brown, and White

  • David W. Koch
  • Jaewon Lee
  • Kyunghee LeeEmail author


Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) data, this study examines racial disparities in arrests for drug offending. Of the total 8984 NLSY97 participants, the study sample was restricted to the 4868 respondents who had ever reported using drugs (black = 1191, Hispanic = 980, white = 2697). The study questions are as follows: (1) Are there racial disparities in arrests for drug use, after controlling for incidence of drug use as well as other socio-demographic variables? (2) Are there racial disparities in arrests for drug dealing, after controlling for incidence of drug dealing as well as other socio-demographic variables? Compared with whites, blacks were more likely to be arrested for drug offending, even after controlling for incidence and other socio-demographic variables. Several socio-demographic variables, particularly gender, were also associated with arrests for drug offending. Bans on racial profiling and other legislative and policy changes are considered as potential strategies to ameliorate drug enforcement disparities.


Racial disparity Arrest for drug offending Drug use Drug dealing Differential drug offending theory Biased drug enforcement theory Socio-demographic variable 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.226 Baker Hall, School of Social WorkMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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