Seen or Unseen? The Role of Race in Police Contact among Homeless Youth

Homeless youth are at an increased risk of police contact—being stopped by police and arrested, yet it is less clear if this interaction is patterned by race.

The current study draws on diverse scholarship to examine three possible effects of race on homeless youths’ interaction with police: that non-White homeless youth are more likely, less likely or no different than White youth to experience police contact. Using the Midwest Longitudinal Study of Homeless Adolescents, we examine homeless youths’ odds of self-reported police harassment and arrest.

Non-White homeless youth are more likely to report police harassment and arrest, but living on the street neutralizes these racial disparities. Further, prior police harassment is linked to subsequent arrest, operating similarly for White and non-White homeless youth. We discuss the implications of these findings for advancing scholarship on the challenges faced by homeless youth.

Publication Date: 
Taylor & Francis Online
Journal Name: 
Justice Quarterly
United States