A young man speaks at a rally
Credit: Mark Dixon/Flickr

There is a segment of White America that regards the country’s shifting demography with terror. These Americans have a range of cultural and economic fears, which have been well documented at the Monthly by Nancy LeTourneau and Ed Kilgore.  One of those  anxieties is that a less white America will become a more crime- ridden America. But the latest criminal justice data—from the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs—on the most diverse generation of young people in the nation’s history provides a dramatic demonstration to the contrary:

The rising racially and ethnically diverse generation of adolescents is substantially more law abiding than were the older, whiter generations who are sometimes afraid of them. The pervasiveness of the change is remarkable. Over the past decade, juvenile arrests are sharply down for every class of crime that the government tracks, including violent (-48%), property (-61%), drug (-47%), and weapon (-54%).

For those hawking apocalyptic visions of a brown tide of youthful violence and disorder, these data are the worst possible news.  For everyone else, the explosion of lawfulness among the young is one of the most positive, underappreciated developments in criminal justice in decades. And it will have radiating, positive impacts for years to come. Avoiding the criminal justice system will allow more young people to pursue their education, secure good jobs, and form healthy and happy families. Meanwhile, cities, counties, and states, can safely redirect resources from correctional facilities toward more productive investments. American diversity has never looked so good.

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.