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Who gets caught? Statistical discrimination in law enforcement

Some people are more likely to be convicted of a crime than others. In this paper we explain why group characteristics, such as race or age, might influence individual probabilities of conviction. Our model is motivated by the simple observation that it is prohibitively costly to investigate every crime. Police and other enforcement agencies may rationally use "statistical discrimination" to minimize search costs. We test the model on a sample of Montreal youth, using information on self-reported juvenile delinquency to see if, controlling for the level of delinquent behavior, individuals’ characteristics have an independent effect on the probability of making a court appearance. We find that characteristics do indeed influence the probability of appearing in court, while a number of forms of delinquent activity have no or even negative impacts in court appearances.

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File URL: http://www.carleton.ca/economics/wp-content/uploads/cep02-03.pdf
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Paper provided by Carleton University, Department of Economics in its series Carleton Economic Papers with number 02-03.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: 01 Jan 2002
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published: Carleton Economic Papers
Handle: RePEc:car:carecp:02-03
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  1. Weitzer, Ronald, 1996. "Racial discrimination in the criminal justice system: Findings and problems in the literature," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 309-322.
  2. Nicola Persico, 2002. "Racial Profiling, Fairness, and Effectiveness of Policing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1472-1497, December.
  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. Garoupa, Nuno, 2000. "The Economics of Organized Crime and Optimal Law Enforcement," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 38(2), pages 278-88, April.
  5. Ambrose Leung, 2002. "Delinquency, Social Institutions, and Capital Accumulation," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 158(3), pages 420-, September.
  6. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-61, September.
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