The first study to look at the arrest histories of American youth since the 1960s suggests a sharp increase: about one-third of people are cuffed for something more serious than a traffic violation before their early 20s. By age 23, at least a quarter of all youth in the U.S. — and perhaps as many as 41% — are arrested at least once for something more serious than a traffic violation, according to a new study of American teens. The study is the first since the 1960s to try to determine the percentage of youth who are arrested. Previously, the research estimated that 22% of Americans had been arrested at least once for a non-traffic violation by age 23. “We say in the paper that we think the real figure is on the order of 1 in 3,” says Robert Brame, lead author of the new study and a professor of criminal justice and criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The broad range in the estimate found by Brame and his team — from 25.3% to 41.4% — is due to missing data. The researchers used 1997-2008 data from the National Survey of Youth, which included more than 7,000 teens, but some didn’t have data from some of the years. Researchers have not completed an analysis of the data by race, but prior studies suggest that minorities are arrested more frequently than whites. Previous research finds, for example, that black youth are arrested at double the rate of white youth for drug crimes, even though a larger proportion of white youth actually use and sell drugs.
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