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Who gets caught? Statistical discrimination in law enforcement

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Abstract

Some people are more likely to be convicted of a crime than others. In this paper we explain why group characteristics, such as race or age, might influence individual probabilities of conviction. Our model is motivated by the simple observation that it is prohibitively costly to investigate every crime. Police and other enforcement agencies may rationally use "statistical discrimination" to minimize search costs. We test the model on a sample of Montreal youth, using information on self-reported juvenile delinquency to see if, controlling for the level of delinquent behavior, individuals’ characteristics have an independent effect on the probability of making a court appearance. We find that characteristics do indeed influence the probability of appearing in court, while a number of forms of delinquent activity have no or even negative impacts in court appearances.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Carleton University, Department of Economics in its series Carleton Economic Papers with number 02-03.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: 01 Jan 2002
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published: Carleton Economic Papers
Handle: RePEc:car:carecp:02-03

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Keywords: crime; optimal law enforcement; discrimination;

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  1. Garoupa, Nuno, 2000. "The Economics of Organized Crime and Optimal Law Enforcement," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, Western Economic Association International, vol. 38(2), pages 278-88, April.
  2. Ambrose Leung, 2002. "Delinquency, Social Institutions, and Capital Accumulation," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 158(3), pages 420-, September.
  3. John Knowles & Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, 1999. "Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7449, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Nicola Persico, 2002. "Racial Profiling, Fairness, and Effectiveness of Policing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1472-1497, December.
  5. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-61, September.
  6. Weitzer, Ronald, 1996. "Racial discrimination in the criminal justice system: Findings and problems in the literature," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 309-322.
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Cited by:
  1. Kwabena Gyimah-Brempong, 2007. "Crime and Race: A Plea for New Ideas," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 173-185, December.

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