Do the adult criminal careers of African Americans fit the "facts"?

Elaine Eggleston Doherty, Margaret E. Ensminger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Purpose: A major gap in the criminal career research is our understanding of offending among African Americans, especially beyond early adulthood. In light of this gap, this study describes the criminal career patterns of a cohort of African American males and females. Methods: This paper uses official criminal history data spanning ages 17 to 52 from the Woodlawn Study, a community cohort of 1,242 urban African American males and females. We use basic descriptive statistics as well as group-based modeling to provide a detailed description of the various dimensions of their adult criminal careers. Results: We find cumulative prevalence rates similar to those for African Americans from national probability sample estimates, yet participation in offending extends farther into midlife than expected with a substantial proportion of the cohort still engaged in offending into their 30s. Conclusions: The descriptive analyses contribute to the larger body of knowledge regarding the relationship between age and crime and the unfolding of the criminal career for African American males and females. The applicability of existing life course and developmental theories is discussed in light of the findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-526
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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