Group differences in delinquency: What is there to explain?

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26 Scopus citations


Race and ethnic difference in delinquency are examined using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. We argue that crime theories that attempt to explain race and ethnic differences imply consistent effects for different offenses and common mediating processes. Analyses suggest some degree of group consistency in delinquent behaviors for Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans, and some Asian groups, but not for African Americans. Black youth have higher rates of violent offenses than White youth, lower rates of substance use, and similar rates of property offending. Some variables are consistent mediators while others are not. Crime theories can account for the low rates of delinquency among Asian Americans while theories of violence and substance use are needed to understand differences between Black and White youth. The findings are inconsistent with the idea that group differences among youth are due to the socioeconomic status of their families or neighborhoods. The race patterns are also inconsistent with the stereotype of high crime rates in Black communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-87
Number of pages30
JournalRace and Justice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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