Crime, Delinquency & Arrest Records

Crime, Delinquency & Arrest Records

The 1980 interview asked about delinquent or criminal activities during the previous twelve month period. Categories included:

  • skipping school
  • alcohol/marijuana use
  • vandalism
  • shoplifting
  • drug dealing
  • robbery
  • assault
  • gambling

The number of respondents reporting participation is summarized in Table 1 and Table 2 below.

Delinquency scales: Adapted from previously used self-report delinquency scales, this instrument was modified for the 1980 NLSY79 survey to accommodate the confidentiality issues raised by in-home administration. In addition, it used an expanded response scale to differentiate very highly delinquent youth from occasional participants. A second set of questions in the 1980 survey measured involvement with the criminal justice system by tallying the number of police contacts and recording the resulting criminal convictions, and sentences (probation, incarceration) received.

Table 1. Number of Respondents Reporting Participation within the Past Year in Illegal Activities by Sex and Race or Ethnicity, 1980 (Unweighted)

Activity Total   Male Female   Hispanic Black Non-Black
Non-Hispanic
Respondents Aged 17 & Under1
Runaway 374   180 194   69 71 234
Truant 1845   980 865   395 368 1082
Drinking 2353   1273 1080   373 451 1529
All Respondents
Vandalism 2131   1588 543   313 468 1350
Fighting 3315   2390 925   531 1020 1764
Shoplifting 3040   1716 1324   514 721 1805
Petty Theft 2237   1498 739   297 444 1496
Grand Theft 658   541 117   103 178 377
Robbery 602   466 136   57 222 323
Assault 4395   2812 1583   556 1152 2687
Aggravated Assault 1245   880 365   155 389 701
Marijuana Use 5493   2946 2547   745 1184 3564
Hard Drug Use 2276   1251 1025   272 303 1701
Sold Marijuana 1266   880 386   154 236 876
Sold Hard Drugs 294   208 86   34 57 203
Fraud 2581   1499 1082   335 792 1454
Auto Theft 922   623 299   152 210 560
Breaking/Entering 706   609 97   96 127 483
Fencing 1343   1031 312   221 293 829
Gambling 281   233 48   48 85 148
 
1 Age calculated as of date of interview.

Table 2. Number of Respondents Reporting Contact with the Police and/or Criminal Justice System by Sex, Race/Ethnicity & 1979 Family Poverty Status: 1980 NLSY79 (Unweighted)

      Sex   Race/Ethnicity   Poverty Status in 1979
Type of Contact Total   Male Female   Hispanic Black Non-Black
Non-Hispanic
  Status NA1 Not in Poverty In Poverty
Stopped by Police 2248   1734 514   365 517 1366   145 1610 493
Booked or Charged 1325   1056 269   207 269 849   93 913 319
As an Adult 981   812 169   136 202 643   87 686 208
Convicted 753   612 141   111 134 508   57 505 191
Assault 90   77 13   11 25 54   7 62 21
Robbery 49   46 3   8 21 20   5 26 18
Theft 237   180 57   38 42 157   20 147 70
Fraud/Forgery 17   11 6   1 3 13   1 11 5
Fencing 17   15 2   1 6 10   3 8 6
Property Destruction 62   56 6   5 8 49   7 45 10
Other Property Offense 90   83 7   7 15 68   6 51 33
Gambling 1   1 0   0 0 1   0 1 0
Vice 2   0 2   0 1 1   1 1 0
Drug Offense 106   90 16   7 12 87   9 82 15
Major Traffic Offense 118   104 14   24 8 86   6 91 21
Alcohol Consumption (Minor) 54   41 13   9 2 43   2 41 11
Sentenced Correctional Institution 313   257 56   47 73 193   35 167 111
Youth Correctional 183   139 44   27 41 115   22 83 78
Adult Correctional 157   144 13   24 46 87   17 98 42
 
1 This refers to individuals for whom the income variable is missing.

Related variables collected during this and other survey years include:

  • Questions on  school discipline problems, such as whether each NLSY79 respondent had ever been suspended or expelled from school and when/if the youth had returned to school (see the School Discipline section of this guide)
  • The childhood residence section of the 1988 survey, which collected information on whether NLSY79 respondents had resided in a detention center/jail/prison during any of their first eighteen years of life (see the "Family Background" area of interest)
  • A yearly created 'Type of Residence' variable that identifies those NLSY79 respondents who resided in jail at each interview date. Table 3 lists the number of respondents that were in jail or prison at time of interview for each round. Responses of "in jail" to questions within post-1988 Employer Supplements and the "Gaps Not Working" sections of the main questionnaires for the reason not looking for work when not employed can also be used to identify incarcerated respondents (see the "Between Job Gaps" and "Misc. "areas of interest).

 

Important Information About Using Crime, Delinquency, and Arrest Records Data

Incarceration dates are not asked directly. If a respondent is in jail or in prison at the time of interview, that information is recorded (see the 'Type of Residence' variables discussion in the Household Composition section of this guide).

Table 3. Number of NLSY79 Respondents in Jail or Prison at Survey Date

Survey Year Respondents in Prison/Jail   Survey Year Respondents in Prison/Jail
1979 26 1992 138
1980 63 1993 146
1981 68 1994 153
1982 91 1996 150
1983 104 1998 137
1984 103 2000 121
1985 105 2002 110
1986 115 20041 37
1987 128 2006  73
1988 128 2008 65
1989 139 2010 47
1990 134 2012 32
1991 121 2014 26
 
1Data was incomplete for 2004 due to confidentiality concerns regarding inmates' participation in the NLSY79.

Comparison to Other NLS Cohorts: Beginning in 1988 two sets of questions were asked of NLSY79 children dealing with (1) the extent of each child's self-reported participation during the past year in various illegal activities such as vandalism, shoplifting, and assault and (2) the extent of use and age of first use of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and drugs. Starting in 1994, young adults were also asked a series of questions closely resembling those in the 1980 main NLSY79.

The NLSY97 survey asks about participation in and the intensity of various criminal activities in the previous year (round 1). In subsequent rounds respondents were questioned about the number of times they participated in criminal activity since the date of last interview. NLSY97 data collected each year include charges, court decisions, and sentencing including dates of incarceration since the last interview. 

The 1968 survey of schools attended by Young Men and Young Women respondents included two questions on whether school records indicated that the respondent had been committed to or was on probation from a correctional institution. Also as part of the 1968 school survey, school records were examined for an indication that the respondent had ever been expelled or suspended from school. For more precise details about the content of each survey, consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide using the tabs above for more information.

Survey Instruments and Documentation Section 15 (of the 1980 questionnaire) on "Delinquency and Drugs," Section 16 on "Reported Police Contacts," and the accompanying confidential Form J contain the delinquency and police contact questions.
Areas of Interest The 71 variables collected during 1980 are found in the "Illegal" area of interest in the main NLSY79 data set.