Research / BFI Working PaperApr 23, 2024

Early Predictors of Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice Involvement

Andrew Jordan, Ezra Karger, Derek Neal

We examine ten cohorts of eighth grade students in public schools in Chicago, IL: 1995-2004. We focus on male students and find that composite measures of math achievement, reading achievement, and neigh-borhood SES during elementary school are strong predictors of future felony arraignment and incarceration rates, even among students of the same race who attend the same school. Nonetheless, our measures of elementary achievement and early SES account for less than half of Black versus non-Black disparities in arraignment and incarceration rates. Results derived using value-added measures of eighth grade quality suggest that schools may reduce criminal justice involvement, particularly among Black males, by better preparing students for the non-cognitive demands of high school.

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