NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Nearly One in Three Will Be Arrested by Age 23

December 28, 2011

Nearly one in three people will be arrested by the time they are 23, a study published in Pediatrics found, says USA Today.

  • The new data show a sharp increase from a previous study that stunned the American public when it was published 44 years ago by criminologist Ron Christensen.
  • That study found 22 percent of youth would be arrested by age 23.
  • The latest study finds 30.2 percent of young people will be arrested by age 23.

Criminologist Alfred Blumstein says the increase in arrests for young people in the latest study is unsurprising given several decades of tough crime policies.  Blumstein says youth may now be arrested for drugs and domestic violence, which were unlikely offenses to attract police attention in the 1960s.

  • The new study is an analysis of data collected between 1997 and 2008 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • The annual surveys conducted over 11 years asked children, teens and young adults between the ages of 8 and 23 whether they had ever been arrested by police or taken into custody for illegal or delinquent offenses.

The question excluded only minor traffic offenses, so youth could have included arrests for a wide variety of offenses such as truancy, vandalism, underage drinking, shoplifting, robbery, assault and murder -- any encounter with police perceived as an arrest, says Robert Brame, one of the study's authors.  Some of the incidents perceived and reported by the young people as arrests may not have resulted in criminal charges, he says.

The high rate of arrest among youth is troubling because the records will follow them as adults and make it harder for them to get student loans, jobs and housing, says criminologist Megan Kurlychek, an associate professor at University at Albany-SUNY.

Source: Donna Leinwand Leger, "Study: Nearly 1 in 3 Will Be Arrested by Age 23," USA Today, December 19, 2011.  Robert Brame et al., "Cumulative Prevalence of Arrest From Ages 8 to 23 in a National Sample," Pediatrics, December 19, 2011.

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