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Racial stereotypes and robbery

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  • O'Flaherty, Brendan
  • Sethi, Rajiv

Abstract

Robbery is a serious, widespread and sometimes violent crime resulting each year in costs to victims of several billion dollars. Data on the incidence of robbery reveals certain striking racial disparities. African-Americans are more likely to be victims, arrestees and prisoners than are members of other demographic groups, and while black-on-white robberies are very common, white-on-black robberies are extremely rare. The disparities for robbery are also much greater than those for other crimes of acquisition. We develop a model of robbery that attempts to address these and other stylized facts. Robberies are typically interactions between strangers that involve a sequence of rapid decisions with severely limited information. Potential offenders must assess the likelihood of victim resistance, and victims must assess the likelihood that resistance will be met with violence. Racial disparities in the distribution of income can cause such probability assessments to be race-contingent, affecting crime rates as well as rates of resistance and violence. We argue that this model helps account for several empirical regularities that appear puzzling from the perspective of alternative theories of crime.

Suggested Citation

  • O'Flaherty, Brendan & Sethi, Rajiv, 2008. "Racial stereotypes and robbery," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(3-4), pages 511-524, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:68:y:2008:i:3-4:p:511-524
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Kim, Young Chul & Loury, Glenn, 2009. "Group Reputation and the Dynamics of Statistical Discrimination," MPRA Paper 18765, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Florent Dubois, 2017. "The Sources of Segregation," Working Papers halshs-01524506, HAL.
    3. Kecinski, Maik & Kerley Keisner, Deborah & Messer, Kent D. & Schulze, William D., 2016. "Stigma mitigation and the importance of redundant treatments," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 44-52.
    4. O'Flaherty, Brendan & Sethi, Rajiv, 2010. "The racial geography of street vice," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 270-286, May.
    5. O'Flaherty, Brendan & Sethi, Rajiv, 2010. "Homicide in black and white," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 215-230, November.
    6. O’Flaherty, Brendan & Sethi, Rajiv, 2015. "Urban Crime," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.

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