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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

Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 10200.

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Date of creation: 05 Mar 2003
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 2008, vol. 60 no. 1, pp. 36-47
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:10200

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Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
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Web page: http://www.econ.iastate.edu
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  1. Verdier, Thierry & Zenou, Yves, 2000. "Racial Beliefs, Location And The Causes Of Crime," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 2455, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  6. Joel L. Schrag, 1999. "First Impressions Matter: A Model Of Confirmatory Bias," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 37-82, February.
  7. Biais, Bruno & Hilton, Denis & Mazurier, Karine & Pouget, Sébastien, 2004. "Judgmental Overconfidence, Self-Monitoring and Trading Performance in an Experimental Financial Market," IDEI Working Papers, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse 259, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  8. John Knowles & Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, . ""Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence''," CARESS Working Papres, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences 99-06, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
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  10. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2002. "Self-Confidence And Personal Motivation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 871-915, August.
  11. 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.
  12. 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, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(3), pages 959-989, 08.
  13. Linda Babcock & George Loewenstein, 1997. "Explaining Bargaining Impasse: The Role of Self-Serving Biases," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 109-126, Winter.
  14. Farmer, Amy & Terrell, Dek, 1996. "Discrimination, Bayesian Updating of Employer Beliefs and Human Capital Accumulation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, Western Economic Association International, vol. 34(2), pages 204-19, April.
  15. Ján Zábojník, 2004. "A model of rational bias in self-assessments," Economic Theory, Springer, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 259-282, January.
  16. Moro,A. & Norman,P., 2001. "A general equilibrium model of statistical discrimination," Working papers, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems 4, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
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  18. 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.
  19. Acemoglu, Daron, 1995. "Public Policy in a Model of Long-Term Unemployment," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 62(246), pages 161-78, May.
  20. 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. 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.
  2. Rubén Hernández-Murillo & John Knowles, 2004. "Racial profiling or racist policing? bounds tests in aggregate data," Working Papers, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 2004-012, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

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