This paper advances a comparative conflict theory of racial and ethnic similarities and differences in youth perceptions of criminal injustice. We use HLM models to test six conflict hypotheses with data from more than 18,000 Chicago public school students. At the micro-level African American youth are more vulnerable to police contacts than are Latinos, who are more at risk than whites, and there is a corresponding gradient in minority group perceptions of injustice. When structural sources of variation in adolescents' experiences are taken into account, however, minority youth perceptions of criminal injustice appear more similar to one another, while remaining distinct from those of white youth. At the micro-level, Latino youth respond more strongly and negatively to police contacts, even though they experience fewer of them. At the macro-level, as white students in schools increase cross-sectionally, perceptions of injustice among both African American and Latino youth at first intensify and then ultimately abate. Although there are again signs of a gradient, African American and Latino responses to school integration also are as notable in their similarities as in their differences. Reduced police contacts and meaningful school integration are promising mechanisms for diminishing both adolescent African American and Latino perceptions of criminal injustice.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science