Do theories of crime or violence explain race differences in delinquency?

Richard B. Felson, Glenn Deane, David P. Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


We examine race differences in delinquency using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. We use a new method that permits an examination of offense specialization. We argue that an examination of offense patterns provides an opportunity for testing theoretical explanations of race effects. If race differences in violent crime reflect race differences in serious crime, then theories of crime can explain race effects. Otherwise, theories of violence are needed to explain the phenomenon. Our results suggest that black adolescents have higher rates of violence, particularly armed violence, but they do not have higher rates of serious (or minor) property or drug crime. Race differences in violence are generally stronger for adolescents who would otherwise be at lower risk: girls and adolescents from educated and intact families. Puerto Rican adolescents also have higher rates of violence than Anglos, but other Hispanic groups do not. We conclude with a discussion of the implication of the empirical literature (including our results) for various theoretical explanations of race differences in violence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)624-641
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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