Sociology ETDs

Publication Date

Winter 12-13-2017


Racial disparities in arrests and incarceration are well documented and typically considered the result of differences in rates of offending. However, research indicates variation in rates of arrest and incarceration by race is not due entirely to differences in offending. While criminal offending can result in part from differences in economic and social factors, these factors also influence criminal justice outcomes. The focal concerns perspective posits that criminal justice actors develop a schema – a pattern of thought or behavior – which can influence decision making and lead to differential treatment by race in criminal justice outcomes. This schema can be developed based on key factors including race, gender, age, socioeconomic factors, and education. Results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) indicate that arrests and conviction rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics vary significantly. The inclusion criminal offending and extra-legal factors such as family and personal socioeconomic variables accounted for a large portion of the racial disparity in arrests and convictions. These findings indicate that the relationship between socioeconomics and race is vital to understanding criminal justice outcomes and – for arrests in particular – racial disparities in these outcomes remain.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Brian Soller

Second Committee Member

Christopher Lyons

Third Committee Member

Paul Guerin


Add Health, crime, race, socioeconomic, education, focal concerns perspective



Document Type


Included in

Sociology Commons