Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Michael J. Leiber, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wesley G. Jennings, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ojmarrh Mitchell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nancy Rodriguez, Ph.D.


Disadvantaged Communities, Juvenile Justice, Minority Youth, Racial Inequality, Underclass Poverty


Studies of the association between race/ethnicity and juvenile court outcomes have found that minority youth often receive disadvantaged outcomes compared to similarly situated Whites, and that community context may condition this relationship. Sampson and Laub's (1993) revised conflict perspective is one theoretical model that can potentially explain the social control of youth throughout juvenile justice proceedings. One of the main propositions of Sampson and Laub's (1993) perspective is that communities characterized by underclass poverty and racial inequality will impose greater social control on youth referred to the juvenile court, especially Blacks and youth charged with a drug offense because they are perceived as a threatening population to middle-class values and standards.

The current research drew upon Sampson and Laub's (1993) macrolevel theory of inequality and social control to examine the juvenile court outcomes of White, Black, and Hispanic youth from all counties in a Northeast state from 2000-2010. Hierarchical generalized linear modeling (HGLM) was employed to examine the relationship between disadvantaged community characteristics (underclass poverty, racial inequality, ethnic inequality) and juvenile court outcomes; especially if race/ethnicity, drug offending, and type of drug offense (possession versus distribution) tempered these relationships. The results indicate that disadvantaged community characteristics did not directly impact the social control of youth, but individual and joint effects of race/ethnicity and drug offending resulted in greater social control for Black and Hispanic youth of various drug offending combinations. In particular, the effect of race/ethnicity on social control was greater for Hispanic youth compared to Blacks. Depending on the stage examined, the relationship between race/ethnicity, drug offending, and juvenile court outcomes were conditioned by disadvantaged community characteristics.

Based on the findings, empirical and theoretical implications are provided that focus on the applicability of Sampson and Laub's (1993) perspective to more recent court outcomes, as well as prevention and intervention programs that focus on decreasing the presence of minority youth in the juvenile justice system. Directions for future research are highlighted to provide greater insights into the circumstances surrounding case outcomes and under what situations community context and race/ethnicity matter in the treatment of youth within the juvenile court.