Black adolescents are much more likely to run afoul of the juvenile justice system than are similar white adolescents, even though the two groups self-report similar rates of offending. Within public schools we find the same differential pattern. Using three waves of longitudinal data collected in schools we evaluate several explanations for the disparity. The greater rates of punishment for blacks occur as a conséquence of teachers’ perceptions of the students’ behavior, their knowledge of students’ recent academic performance, and their knowledge of students’ past record of being sanctioned. Since black adolescents in our sample received poorer grades and were rated as less well behaved in the past, they were more likely to have been sanctioned and therefore to acquire a cumulative disadvantage. The punishment disparity is best understood as the result of a social construction process.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science