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The Impact of Race on Policing and Arrests


  • Donohue, John J, III
  • Levitt, Steven D


Race has long been recognized as playing a critical role in policing. In spite of this awareness, there has been little previous research that attempts to quantitatively analyze the impact of officer race on tangible outcomes. In this paper, we examine the relationship between the racial composition of a city's police force and the racial patterns of arrests. Increases in the number of minority police are associated with significant increases in arrests of whites but have little impact on arrests of nonwhites. Similarly, more white police increase the number of arrests of nonwhites but do not systematically affect the number of white arrests. These patterns are particularly striking for minor offenses. Understanding the reasons for this empirical regularity and the consequent impact on crime is an important subject for future research. Copyright 2001 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Donohue, John J, III & Levitt, Steven D, 2001. "The Impact of Race on Policing and Arrests," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(2), pages 367-394, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:44:y:2001:i:2:p:367-94

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Cameron, Samuel, 1988. "The Economics of Crime Deterrence: A Survey of Theory and Evidence," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(2), pages 301-323.
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    3. Joseph Price & Justin Wolfers, 2010. "Racial Discrimination Among NBA Referees," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(4), pages 1859-1887.
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    9. Catalina Gómez Toro & Hermilson Velásquez & Joaquín Andrés Urrego & Juan David Valderrama, 2014. "Efecto de los Ingresos Permanentes sobre el Delito: Un Enfoque Espacial y un Caso de Aplicación," DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO CIEF 010900, UNIVERSIDAD EAFIT.
    10. Thomas J. Miles, 2012. "Racial Disparities in Wiretap Applications before Federal Judges," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 419-458.
    11. Dharmapala Dhammika & Ross Stephen L, 2004. "Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Additional Theory and Evidence," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-23, September.
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    13. Reilly, Barry & Witt, Robert, 2011. "Disciplinary sanctions in English Premiership Football: Is there a racial dimension?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 360-370, June.
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    15. 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.
    16. Blumkin, Tomer & Margalioth, Yoram, 2008. "On terror, drugs and racial profiling," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 194-203, September.
    17. Shi, Lan, 2009. "The limit of oversight in policing: Evidence from the 2001 Cincinnati riot," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 99-113, February.
    18. Thorsten Beck & Patrick Behr & Andreas Madestam, 2011. "Sex and Credit: Is There a Gender Bias in Lending?," Working Papers 411, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
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    20. Justin McCrary, 2006. "The Effect of Court-Ordered Hiring Quotas on the Composition and Quality of Police," NBER Working Papers 12368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Cabral, Sandro & Lazzarini, Sérgio G., 2010. "Guarding the Guardians: An Analysis of Investigations against Police," Insper Working Papers wpe_202, Insper Working Paper, Insper Instituto de Ensino e Pesquisa.
    22. Kwabena Gyimah-Brempong, 2007. "Crime and Race: A Plea for New Ideas," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 34(3), pages 173-185, December.
    23. Max M. Schanzenbach, 2015. "Racial Disparities, Judge Characteristics, and Standards of Review in Sentencing," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 171(1), pages 27-47, March.
    24. Ulrick, Shawn W., 2012. "The Oaxaca decomposition generalized to a continuous group variable," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 115(1), pages 35-37.
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