If you're a man and you've made your way to age 23 without getting arrested, consider it a win. A new study finds that 38% of white men, 44% of Hispanic men, and 49% of black men have been arrested by that age for non-traffic-related crimes, the AP reports. Researchers looked at annual surveys from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, in which about 7,000 young people self-reported their history. The crimes reported ranged from underage drinking to assault; not all of the arrests resulted in convictions, the Wall Street Journal notes. (What about women? By age 23, 16% of Hispanics, 18% of whites, and 20% of blacks had been arrested.)
The findings show "many, many people are involved with the criminal justice system at this level, and treating them all as if they're hardened criminals is a serious mistake," says a criminologist. A study co-author notes that even without a conviction, an arrest can come back to haunt a young person when he or she applies for a job, a loan, or a professional license. "These problems are likely to reverberate long down the life course," the study says. Just two states, New York and North Carolina, are currently looking to change the law so that arrested teens only go to adult court once they hit 18, rather than at 16.