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Racial Profiling, Statistical Discrimination, and the Effect of a Colorblind Policy on the Crime Rate

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  • David Bjerk

Abstract

Using a model similar to labor market models of statistical discrimination, I de- scribe how and why racial profiling can arise even when law enforcement officers are racially unbiased. Specifically, if one racial group has a higher fraction of individuals who are at risk of committing the relevant type of crime than another, and if law enforcement officers can observe a noisy signal of guilt in addition to an individual's race, then it will be optimal for officers to treat observationally equivalent individu- als of different races differently. Moreover, this model can be used to show how the effect of a racially colorblind policy on the overall crime rate for a particular type of crime will depend on the racial make-up of the relevant jurisdiction, the relative proportions of each racial group that are at risk of choosing to commit that crime, the proportion of the relevant population that officers can observe, the magnitude of the punishment for that particular type of crime, and distribution of the benefits to committing that particular crime. The implications coming from this analysis are then applied and analyzed with respect to two specific contexts--highway patrol vehicle searches for drugs or weapons, and border patrol investigations of foreign entrants for terrorist connections.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by McMaster University in its series Department of Economics Working Papers with number 2004-11.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mcm:deptwp:2004-11

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  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. Richard Startz & Lundberg, . "Private Discrimination and Social Intervention in Competitive Labor Markets," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 19-81, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  3. Coate, S. & Loury, G.C., 1992. "Will Affirmative Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," Papers 3, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  4. John Knowles & Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, . "Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," Penn CARESS Working Papers 5940d5c4875c571776fb29700, Penn Economics Department.
  5. Cornell, Bradford & Welch, Ivo, 1996. "Culture, Information, and Screening Discrimination," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(3), pages 542-71, June.
  6. Farmer, Amy & Terrell, Dek, 2001. "Crime versus Justice: Is There a Trade-Off?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(2), pages 345-66, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Shamena Anwar & Hanming Fang, 2006. "An Alternative Test of Racial Prejudice in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 127-151, March.
  2. Brock, William A. & Cooley, Jane & Durlauf, Steven N. & Navarro, Salvador, 2012. "On the observational implications of taste-based discrimination in racial profiling," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 166(1), pages 66-78.
  3. Curry, Philip A. & Klumpp, Tilman, 2009. "Crime, punishment, and prejudice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 73-84, February.
  4. Sergio Parra Cely, 2011. "Group Profiling for Alcohol Impaired Motorists with Driving Skills Disparities: Should we Care for Fairness?," VNIVERSITAS ECONÓMICA 010089, UNIVERSIDAD JAVERIANA - BOGOTÁ.
  5. Kate L. Antonovics & Brian G. Knight, 2004. "A New Look at Racial Profiling: Evidence from the Boston Police Department," NBER Working Papers 10634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Mason, Patrick L., 2007. "Driving while black: do police pass the test?," MPRA Paper 11328, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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