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The Impact of Race on Policing, Arrest Patterns, and Crime

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  • John J. Donohue III
  • Steven D. Levitt

Abstract

Race has long been recognized as playing a critical role in policing. In spite of this awareness, there has been virtually no previous research attempting to quantitatively analyze the issue. In this paper, we examine the relationship between the racial composition of a city's police force and the racial patterns of arrests and crime. Increases in the number of minority police are associated with significant increases in arrests of whites, but have little impact on arrests of non-whites. Similarly arrests of non-whites, but do not systematically affect the number of white arrests. The race of police officers has a less clear-cut impact on crime rates. It appears that own-race policing may be more effective in reducing property crime, but no systematic differences are observed for violent crime. These results are consistent either with own-race policing leading to fewer false arrests or greater deterrence. In either case, own-race policing appears more "efficient" in fighting property crime.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6784.

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Date of creation: Nov 1998
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Publication status: Published as "Continuous Versus Episodic Change: The Impact of Civil Rights Policy on the Economic Status of Blacks", Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 29, no. 4 (1991): 1603-
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6784

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  1. Orley Ashenfelter & James Heckman, 1974. "Measuring the Effect of an Antidiscrimination Program," Working Papers 432, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. Bowles, Roger & Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. "Casual police corruption and the economics of crime," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 75-87, March.
  3. Hochstedler, Ellen & Conley, John A., 1986. "Explaining underrepresentation of black officers in city police agencies," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 319-328.
  4. Decker, Scott H. & Smith, Russell L., 1980. "Police minority recruitment: A note on its effectiveness in improving black evaluations of the police," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 8(6), pages 387-393.
  5. Levitt, Steven D, 1998. "Why Do Increased Arrest Rates Appear to Reduce Crime: Deterrence, Incapacitation, or Measurement Error?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(3), pages 353-72, July.
  6. Leonard, Jonathan S, 1984. "The Impact of Affirmative Action on Employment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(4), pages 439-63, October.
  7. Julie Berry Cullen & Steven D. Levitt, 1996. "Crime, Urban Flight, and the Consequences for Cities," NBER Working Papers 5737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Leonard, Jonathan S, 1990. "The Impact of Affirmative Action Regulation and Equal Employment Law on Black Employment," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 47-63, Fall.
  9. Cameron, Samuel, 1988. "The Economics of Crime Deterrence: A Survey of Theory and Evidence," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(2), pages 301-23.
  10. McCormick, Robert E & Tollison, Robert D, 1984. "Crime on the Court," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(2), pages 223-35, April.
  11. Levitt, Steven D, 1997. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 270-90, June.
  12. Mauro, Paolo, 1995. "Corruption and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 681-712, August.
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Cited by:
  1. 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.
  2. Mühlheusser, Gerd & Roider, Andreas, 2005. "Black Sheep and Walls of Silence," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 56, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  3. David Neumark & Harry Holzer, 2000. "Assessing Affirmative Action," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 483-568, September.
  4. Stephen L. Ross, 2003. "What Is Known about Testing for Discrimination: Lessons Learned by Comparing across Different Markets," Working papers 2003-21, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics, revised Nov 2003.
  5. Mason, Patrick L., 2007. "Driving while black: do police pass the test?," MPRA Paper 11328, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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