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


This paper develops a model of racial profiling by law enforcement officers when officers observe both an individual's race as well as a noisy signal of his or her guilt that depends on whether or not a crime has been committed. The model shows that given officers observe such a guilt signal, data regarding the guilt rate among those investigated from each race will not be sufficient for determining whether racially unequal investigation rates are due to statistical discrimination or racial bias on the part of officers. The model also reveals that when racially unequal investigation rates are due to statistical discrimination, imposing a colorblind policy on officers can increase, decrease, or have little effect on the crime rate, depending on specific characteristics of the jurisdiction and the crime in question. Copyright 2007 Blackwell Publishing, Inc..

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Article provided by Association for Public Economic Theory in its journal Journal of Public Economic Theory.

Volume (Year): 9 (2007)
Issue (Month): 3 (06)
Pages: 521-545

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Handle: RePEc:bla:jpbect:v:9:y:2007:i:3:p:521-545
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  1. Lundberg, Shelly J & Startz, Richard, 1983. "Private Discrimination and Social Intervention in Competitive Labor Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 340-47, June.
  2. Coate, Stephen & Loury, Glenn C, 1993. "Will Affirmative-Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1220-40, December.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
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