Focus on the Figures: Juvenile Felony Arrests, by Race

Every other weekThe Chronicle of Social Change will feature one key indicator from Kidsdata, which offers comprehensive data about the health and well being of children across California.

In this installment, we examine the racial breakdown of juvenile felony arrest rate in California, perhaps the most diverse state in the union.

A state’s list of felony crimes generally includes its most serious crimes, the ones most likely to earn a period of incarceration for the offender. These tend to involve injury or substantial property loss, such as homicide, rape, theft, and drug offenses. Less serious offenses are often categorized as misdemeanors.

Disproportionate minority contact has been an issue of concern in juvenile justice for decades. For more information, see The Future of Children’s journal issue, Juvenile Justice.


Among racial/ethnic groups, African-American youth are arrested at far higher rates than Latino or white youths. In 2012, the juvenile felony arrest rate (per 1,000) for African American youths was 34.2, compared to the Latino rate of 9.1 and the white rate of 6.1.

In terms of arrest practices, the African-American arrest rate in 2012 actually represents a marked improvement. In 2007, 50.9 per 1,000 African-American youths were arrested for juvenile felonies.

The arrest rates for all races have declined since 2007, but not at the same pace. In 2007 the rate for African-American youth was less than five times the white arrest rate of 10.4. In 2012, the African-American rate of 34.2 was more than five times the white rate of 6.1.

John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.