While youth involved in gangs comprise only a small portion of the adolescent population, gang membership is a significant threat to youth safety. Interestingly, the number of youth who identify as gang members in California does not change much between middle school and high school.
8.3 percent of seventh graders reported that they consider themselves gang members in data collected from the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years. The percentage goes up to 9.1 percent among ninth graders, and 8.2 percent of eleventh graders.
A much higher percentage of youths (15.9 percent) in “non-traditional” school settings identified as gang members. These settings include community day schools, which school districts operate to educate students who have been expelled, and continuation education programs for older teens who have gotten off track to graduate.
The National Gang Center’s National Youth Gang Survey Analysis periodically collects data on gangs from law enforcement. The 2011 survey indicated that 35 percent of gang members were under 18, down from 41 percent in 2008.
According to survey data, youths make up high percentages of gang members in rural areas and small cities, but a low percentage of gang members in large cities.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Imprint.