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failure, may also influence the decision about how to handle a juvenile. Thus, analyses need to control for some of these factors to better reveal the importance of race or ethnicity in the disproportionality. As indicated in Table 6-4, only a few studies include controls for important covariates.
Using this more rigorous test of the disproportionality hypothesis involving multivariate analyses, Frazier and Bishop (1995) found that being nonwhite significantly increased the likelihood of an intake decision of formal processing, despite controls for gender, age, prior record, offense severity, and contempt status. Being nonwhite did not seem to affect decisions at other points in the process.
Waiver to Adult Courts
In an analysis of transfer decisions in Boston, Detroit, Newark, and Phoenix, Fagan et al. (1987a) found that blacks were 75 percent more likely to be waived to criminal court than whites (1.4 versus 0.8 percent of cases, respectively). Juveniles who were older at the time of the offense, juveniles with an earlier age of delinquency onset, and juveniles charged with murder were most often transferred. Although Fagan et al. (1987a) found that minority juveniles were transferred more often, race was not a statistically independent influence on the decision to transfer. However, these authors suggested that race may indirectly affect transfer decisions through factors such as dress, demeanor, quality of defense representation, verbal abilities of the minor, and status in the community.
Podkopacz and Feld (1995, 1996) closely scrutinized court processing variables and reported no race effects in waiver decisions after appropriate controls were added. In contrast, the General Accounting Office (1995) reported substantial racial effects when controlling only for present offense. Again, though there is little empirical information on which to draw conclusions, the evidence that exists suggests a complicated picture of decision making affected by multiple factors, including a number that are relatively subjective. The possibility that race may play a role in those waiver decisions in which substantial discretion is granted decision makers cannot be completely discarded.
Decision Making in the Courts and Institutions
By necessity, court officials classify youth and make judgments about character, and these decisions influence the outcome of legal proceedings. Since the 1960s, studies of racial bias in juvenile courts have examined whether court officials treat minority youth more severely than white youth (Aday, 1986; Arnold, 1971; Bishop and Frazier, 1988; Bortner and Reed, 1985; Carter and Wilkins, 1970; Fagan et al., 1987a, 1987b; Horowitz