Two percent of US youth gang members: Study

Washington, Feb 13
On an average two percent of youth between ages five and 17 years in the US are gang members, says an alarming study that estimated that there are over one million juvenile gang members in the country.

Law enforcement severely undercounts juvenile gang members, with national estimates at 300,000, less than one-third of what was found in the study, the researchers noted.

Involvement in gang activities is the highest at age 14, when about five percent of youth are in gangs, the findings showed.

"The public has been led to believe that gang members are black and Latino males and that once someone joins a gang they cannot leave a gang, both of which are patently false," said David Pyrooz, assistant professor of Criminal Justice at the Sam Houston State University.

These stereotypes are portrayed by Hollywood and law enforcement, the researchers noted.

The study also found that gangs have high turnover rates of 36 percent, with about 400,000 youth joining gangs and another 400,000 youth leaving gangs every year.

This means that gangs have to constantly recruit new talent to their groups, not unlike service-industry or other occupations where employees frequently quit after a short period.

The authors of the study looked at the number of gang members, the characteristics of youth in gangs, and how many youth join and leave gangs each year in the US.

They analysed questions about gang membership that were included in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, nationally representative data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The study appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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