The White House establishes policy on minimum race and ethnicity categories with a framework that is disseminated in an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular. All federal agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau for the decennial Census must follow the OMB requirements for collecting information on the most basic race and ethnic combinations. These categories influence everything from civil rights monitoring, to education and health planning and fairness in the juvenile justice system and the categories change over time and are likely to be revised once again in advance of the 2020 Census.
The current policy for minimum reporting establishes 5 minimum race categories and 2 ethnicity options of Hispanic or Latino or not Hispanic or Latino. Thus a key principle for juvenile justice data collection is to collect race and ethnicity data as separate data items or variables.
- Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity (current federal race and ethnicity data coding policy)
- Guidelines for Collecting and Recording Race and Ethnicity of Juveniles (Pennsylvania juvenile delinquency data collection guide, 2006)
- What Census Calls Us: A Historical Timeline (A PEW Research Center Blog)
- Multiracial in America: Proud, Diverse and Growing in Numbers (Research report, 2015)
The U.S. population will grow and become more diverse through mid-century. The juvenile population will continue to grow and become more diverse. The white proportion of the juvenile population ages 10 to 17 is projected to decrease from 53% in 2015 to 37% in 2060, with Hispanic and Latino youth and multi-race youth experiencing the greatest increases.
Percent of population
Percent of population
Since 1988, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act has required ongoing state monitoring of disparities that may indicate biased decision-making in juvenile justice. Measurement activities initially focused on youth in secure confinement, but later recognized that disparities may also be the result of earlier steps in the juvenile justice system involving the decisions of law enforcement, prosecutors and juvenile court judges to divert youth from advancing deeper into the juvenile justice system. During this period two approaches to measuring vital signs in this area emerged.
The current JJDP Act requires the relative rate index (RRI) to measure disparities in the juvenile justice system. It addresses the contributions between 9 key decision points spanning arrest, court and custody events and transfer to criminal court. However, it also involves gathering data from multiple agencies' administrative systems. These systems vary in their capacity across and within states and may not contain the geographic detail necessary to identify jurisdictions with symptoms of a problem requiring deeper exploration and detail.
An earlier method that still has some merit for state or county reporting is called the disproportionate representation index (DRI). DRI's are easier to develop and explain but mask the contribution of each decision to the cumulative problem of overrepresentation of youth in secure settings which the RRI indicator was developed to address.
- National Disproportionate Minority Contact Databook (interactive website with offense category filtering)
- Interactive State Data Map, W. Haywood Burns Institute for Juvenile Justice Fairness & Equity
- Racial and Ethnic Disparities Reduction Practice Manual (2015)
- Explanation of differences between relative rate and simple rate measures (animated powerpoint developed to explain relative rate reporting requirements, Feyerherm and Butts, 2002)
- Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2014 National Report (compendium of juvenile justice statistics, many with race/ethnicity details)
Using national data collections to develop indicators
There is no national data collection specifically designed to monitor vital signs on racial and ethnic fairness at the state-level. However, existing collections can be applied in a interim way to advance discussions. The preferred RRI indicator is easily available for a national snapshot on the issue but lacks the ability to drill into the state or local details necessary for focusing reform advocacy. Simple rates are common per-capita metrics available at the state-level, but with many limitations. Inconsistent ethnicity reporting presents a challenge regardless of approach, leading to a possible over count of white youth in the juvenile justice system which distort White-to-Hispanic/Latino ratios but also impact RRI metrics for other groups.
Relative rate index (RRI)
Disproportionate representation index (DRI)
|Precision||Relative rate sophistication across 9 decision points||Simple, per-capita rates for 3 decision points|
|Geography||Easily available at the national-level||Easily available at the state-level|
|Race/ethnicity||Available for several race categories but lacks accurate Hispanic or Latino ethnicity||Available for several race categories and ethnicity for 2 of 3 simple rate measures|
Simple rates, non-white to non-Hispanic white ratios ()
- Insufficient data to compute arrest rates
- Hispanic or Latino detail not commonly and consistently reported
- * Rates used to compute ratio based on fewer than 10 observations
- † White detained rate is 0
Relative rates for delinquency offenses: non-white to white ratios (2013)
There are different ways for racial and ethnic fairness indicator data to be reported by states. However, twenty-five years into a reporting requirement, indicators are difficult for the average person to obtain. Most states report directly to OJJDP, but a handful of progressive states advance the federal requirement to report RRIs by annually releasing them in public facing websites that address the aims of transparency and continuous monitoring for improvements or slip. A few take an additional step of publishing RRIs on interactive websites which encourage exploration. Other states publish indicators and sometimes much more with point-in-time assessment research that is also required by OJJDP. Some states do both.
- Race and Ethnic Fairness Data in Juvenile Justice: Availability of State Data (JJGPS StateScan, 2015)
- State Assessments of Disproportionate Minority Contact (JJGPS StateScan, 2015)
- OJJDP Disproportionate Minority Contact Website
- Disproportionate Minority Contact Technical Assistance Manual, 4th Edition (2009)
An additional federal requirement is a staff person designated to advance racial and ethnic fairness reporting and improvement plans called Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Coordinators. Sometimes the positions are full-time posts but can also be part-time positions. In recent years fewer states have dedicated a full-time state position for advancing racial and ethnic fairness in juvenile justice.
- State DMC Coordinators (online listing by state)
- DMC Training and Technical Assistance State Online Portal
While the JJDP Act has required states to monitor disparities in the juvenile justice system, few states actually publish their results publicly. Most states report to the federal juvenile justice agency only. A few states have taken a progressive approach by creating interactive online dashboards, in addition to published reports, which allow users to explore DMC indicators across juvenile justice decision points.