Editor’s Note: These entries are part of an ongoing drug-related dissertation bibliography being compiled by Jonathon Erlen, which was formerly published in the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs journal but is now periodically featured on the Points blog. Contact Dr. Erlen through the link above.
Derailed: Racially Disparate Consequences of Juvenile Drug Arrests on Life Outcomes
Author: Ashtiani, Mariam Tayari
Publication info: University of California, Irvine, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2016.
Abstract: Racial biases in law enforcement over the last three decades are linked to the racialized policies of the War on Drugs, which have given way to controversially aggressive policing tactics, disproportionately focused on minority youth. These policies also pose a serious challenge to race-neutral understandings of inequality: While White youth use and sell drugs at higher rates, Black and Latino youth are more likely to get arrested. What are the consequences of this aggressive and racially biased drug enforcement on the lives of youth? I explore this question by looking at racial differences in the impact of a juvenile drug arrest on two crucial life outcomes: education and employment. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, I compare the effects of juvenile drug arrests on life outcomes to the effects of other types of arrests, highlighting the unique role that drug arrests play in creating divergent life outcomes along racial lines. Prior research on the impact of juvenile arrests used aggregate measures of arrest, with an underlying assumption that all offenders are uniformly impacted by an arrest, regardless of arrest type or race. In this dissertation, I develop and test Racial Profiling Selection Theory, in which Blacks, and to a lesser extent Latinos, due to racial profiling, are more likely to be arrested for minor drug crimes than Whites. I argue that Blacks and Latinos who are arrested for drugs are often youth who otherwise do not engage in criminal behavior; their pathways towards educational and labor market success are therefore derailed by the arrest. In contrast, Whites who are arrested tend to be those who engage in more criminal and delinquent behaviors. My findings support this theory. I find that drug arrests are unique, relative to other types of arrests, in their negative impacts on the life chances for Blacks and darker-phenotype Latinos. My findings have important theoretical and policy implications since they show that not only do Blacks suffer more from the War on Drugs than Whites because they are more likely to be arrested, they suffer more because the actual arrest is more detrimental to their life chances.