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Using Hit Rate Tests to Test for Racial Bias in Law Enforcement: Vehicle Searches in Wichita

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  • Nicola Persico
  • Petra Todd

Abstract

This paper considers the use of outcomes-based tests for detecting racial bias in the context of police searches of motor vehicles. It shows that the test proposed in Knowles, Persico and Todd (2001) can also be applied in a more general environment where police officers are heterogenous in their tastes for discrimination and in their costs of search and motorists are heterogeneous in their benefits and costs from criminal behavior. We characterize the police and motorist decision problems in a game theoretic framework and establish properties of the equilibrium. We also extend the model to the case where drivers' characteristics are mutable in the sense that drivers can adapt some of their characteristics to reduce the probability of being monitored. After developing the theory that justifies the application of outcomes-based tests, we apply the tests to data on police searches of motor vehicles gathered by the Wichita Police deparment. The empirical findings are consistent with the notion that police in Wichita choose their search strategies to maximize successful searches, and not out of racial bias.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10947.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10947.

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Date of creation: Dec 2004
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10947

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References

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  1. Charles F. Manski, 2006. "Search Profiling With Partial Knowledge of Deterrence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(515), pages F385-F401, November.
  2. Kate Antonovics & Brian G. Knight, 2009. "A New Look at Racial Profiling: Evidence from the Boston Police Department," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 163-177, February.
  3. John Knowles & Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, . ""Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence''," CARESS Working Papres 99-06, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  4. Bunzel, Helle & Marcoul, Philippe, 2008. "Can racially unbiased police perpetuate long-run discrimination?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 36-47, October.
  5. Shamena Anwar & Hanming Fang, 2005. "An Alternative Test of Racial Prejudice in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 11264, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Nicola Persico, 2002. "Racial Profiling, Fairness, and Effectiveness of Policing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1472-1497, December.
  7. Dhammika Dharmapala & Stephen L. Ross, 2003. "Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Additional Theory and Evidence," Working papers 2003-12, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics, revised Dec 2003.
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Cited by:
  1. Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, 2005. "Passenger Profiling, Imperfect Screening, and Airport Security," PIER Working Paper Archive 05-005, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  2. John J. Donohue III, 2005. "The Law and Economics of Antidiscrimination Law," NBER Working Papers 11631, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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