Why millennials are more likely than their predecessors to be arrested for crimes they claim they did not commit

An image to illustrate the concept of millenials arrest statistics
© iStock/tolgart

A new study found that millennials are more likely than their predecessor counterparts to be arrested, regardless of whether they self-reported committing a crime.

The study was carried out by an expert at Johns Hopkins University. The study assessed the  relationship between reported criminality and involvement with law enforcement, comparing millennials to the previous generation. It also assessed the influence of race on these statistics.

The millennial generation

Millennials are more likely to be arrested than their predecessor counterparts regardless of self-reported criminal activity, finds a new study by a Johns Hopkins University expert.

The first author of the study, and Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, Vesla Weaver, commented: “The idea that there’s a direct link between committing a crime and having contact with the criminal justice system is essential to public policy, political rhetoric and criminology, and the assumption is rarely questioned. However, our study found that there is a loosening relationship between actually committing a crime and being arrested for the millennial generation, something that was not true for the previous generation, Gen X.”

How does the race of a millennial affect the statistics?

The study also found that:

  • Black men who self-reported no offences were 419% more likely to be arrested at the beginning of the 21st century than non-offending black men of the previous generation; and
  • They are 31.5% more likely to be arrested than white people of the same generation who did not self-report any crimes.

Perpetuating inequity

The research team argue that the disproportionate rate of black arrests further perpetuates racial inequity.

John Hopkins University notes that arrest is associated with outcomes such as:

  • Lower earnings;
  • Higher chance of unemployment;
  • Lower educational attainment; and
  • A higher likelihood of continued involvement with the criminal justice system.

The causes

Weaver said that these results illustrate the ramifications of a policy era characterised by:

  • Broken windows policing;
  • Increased prosecutorial activism; and
  • A sweeping set of legislative changes that together bent the criminal justice system toward a focus on low-level or non-offenders.

She concludes: “Our reform strategy should not only focus on decreasing punitive interventions but on realigning exposure to arrest with criminal offending.”

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