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Can racially unbiased police perpetuate long-run discrimination?

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  • Bunzel, Helle
  • Marcoul, Philippe

Abstract

We develop a stylized dynamic model of highway policing in which a non-racist police officer exhibits a cognitive bias: relative overconfidence. The officer is given incentives to arrest criminals but faces a per stop cost which increases when the racial mix of her stops differs from that of the population. Every period, she observes the racial composition of jail inmates (generated from arrests made by her peers) and forms estimates about the crime rates of each race. In some settings, her overconfidence leads her to overestimate the crime rate of one race relative to another causing the long-run racial composition of the jail population to deviate from the "fair" one (one where the racial mix in jails is identical to that in the criminal population). We compare this to a situation where officers have detailed stop data on each race, similar to data being currently collected in many US states.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 68 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (October)
Pages: 36-47

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:68:y:2008:i:1:p:36-47

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  1. Farmer, Amy & Terrell, Dek, 1996. "Discrimination, Bayesian Updating of Employer Beliefs and Human Capital Accumulation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 34(2), pages 204-19, April.
  2. Moro, Andrea & Norman, Peter, 2004. "A general equilibrium model of statistical discrimination," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 114(1), pages 1-30, January.
  3. Rubén Hernández-Murillo & John Knowles, 2004. "Racial Profiling Or Racist Policing? Bounds Tests In Aggregate Data," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(3), pages 959-989, 08.
  4. Chakravarty, Shanti P., 2002. "Economic analysis of police stops and searches: a critique," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 597-605, September.
  5. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2002. "Self-Confidence And Personal Motivation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 871-915, August.
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  9. Biais, Bruno & Hilton, Denis & Mazurier, Karine & Pouget, Sébastien, 2004. "Judgmental Overconfidence, Self-Monitoring and Trading Performance in an Experimental Financial Market," IDEI Working Papers 259, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  10. Brad M. Barber & Terrance Odean, 2001. "Boys Will Be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence, And Common Stock Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 261-292, February.
  11. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226041162, October.
  12. Nicola Persico, 2002. "Racial Profiling, Fairness, and Effectiveness of Policing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1472-1497, December.
  13. Markus Glaser & Martin Weber, 2007. "Overconfidence and trading volume," The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance Theory, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 1-36, June.
  14. Lu�s Santos-Pinto & Joel Sobel, 2005. "A Model of Positive Self-Image in Subjective Assessments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1386-1402, December.
  15. Coate, S. & Loury, G.C., 1992. "Will Affirmative Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," Papers 3, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  16. Verdier, T. & Zenou, Y., 2001. "Racial beliefs, location and the causes of crime," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 0101, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
  17. Ján Zábojník, 2004. "A model of rational bias in self-assessments," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 259-282, January.
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  19. Borooah, Vani K., 2001. "Racial bias in police stops and searches: an economic analysis," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 17-37, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Rubén Hernández-Murillo & John Knowles, 2004. "Racial Profiling Or Racist Policing? Bounds Tests In Aggregate Data," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(3), pages 959-989, 08.
  2. Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, 2004. "Using Hit Rate Tests to Test for Racial Bias in Law Enforcement: Vehicle Searches in Wichita," NBER Working Papers 10947, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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