Predictive validity and measurement invariance in juvenile risk assessment: Implications for racial and ethnic disparities in juvenile justice

Christopher J. Sullivan, Texas State University
James McCafferty, Kennesaw State University
Jamie Newsome, University of Cincinnati
Amber Mandalari, University of Cincinnati


U.S. states have made a good deal of progress in reducing the number of youths incarcerated in residential facilities in recent decades. While this is a positive development, racial and ethnic disparities (RED) persist in which youths are being placed in these facilities. That incongruence means that youths of color are still poised to experience the downsides of those custodial experiences. Juvenile risk and needs assessment (JRNA) has been endorsed as one means of reducing RED in the juvenile justice system, but the literature on performance across race and ethnicity subgroups is limited and mixed to date. This study uses data from 680 youth in juvenile residential facilities in a Western U.S. state, including large subsamples of White and Hispanic youths, to investigate the performance of a JRNA tool, the Ohio Youth Assessment System. The analyses focus on race and ethnicity differences in prevalence of risk and needs; predictive validity across groups; and measurement invariance between White and Hispanic youths. The discussion focuses on key findings and their implications for addressing RED in juvenile justice.