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An Alternative Test of Racial Prejudice in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence

We exploit a simple but realistic model of trooper behavior to design empirical tests that address the following two questions. Are police monolithic in their search behavior? Is racial profiling in motor vehicle searches motivated by troopers' desire for effective policing (statistical discrimination) or by their racial prejudice (racism)? Our tests require data sets with race information about both the motorists and troopers. When applied to vehicle stop and search data from Florida, our tests can soundly reject the null hypothesis that troopers of different races are monolithic in their search behavior, but fail to reject the null hypothesis that none of the racial groups of troopers are racially prejudiced.

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Paper provided by Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University in its series Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers with number 1464.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in American Economic Review (March 2006), 96(1): 127-151
Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1464
Contact details of provider: Postal: Yale University, Box 208281, New Haven, CT 06520-8281 USA
Phone: (203) 432-3702
Fax: (203) 432-6167
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Order Information: Postal: Cowles Foundation, Yale University, Box 208281, New Haven, CT 06520-8281 USA

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  1. Jeff Dominitz & John Knowles, 2005. "Crime Minimization and Racial Bias: What Can We Learn From Police Search Data?," PIER Working Paper Archive 05-019, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  2. Kate L. Antonovics & Brian G. Knight, 2004. "A New Look at Racial Profiling: Evidence from the Boston Police Department," NBER Working Papers 10634, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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.
  4. John Knowles & Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, 1999. "Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7449, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Coate, S. & Loury, G.C., 1992. "Will Affirmative Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," Papers 3, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  6. Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, 2005. "Using Hit Rates to Test for Racial Bias in Law Enforcement: Vehicle Searches in Wichita," PIER Working Paper Archive 05-004, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  7. Rubén Hernández-Murillo & John Knowles, 2004. "Racial profiling or racist policing? bounds tests in aggregate data," Working Papers 2004-012, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  8. David Bjerk, 2007. "Racial Profiling, Statistical Discrimination, and the Effect of a Colorblind Policy on the Crime Rate," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 9(3), pages 521-545, 06.
  9. Nicola Persico, 2002. "Racial Profiling, Fairness, and Effectiveness of Policing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1472-1497, December.
  10. Manski, C.F., 1992. "Identification Problems in the Social Sciences," Working papers 9217, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  11. 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 367-94, October.
  12. Riksheim, Eric C. & Chermak, Steven M., 1993. "Causes of police behavior revisited," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 353-382.
  13. Borooah, Vani K., 2001. "Racial bias in police stops and searches: an economic analysis," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 17-37, March.
  14. Stephen L. Ross & John Yinger, 2002. "The Color of Credit: Mortgage Discrimination, Research Methodology, and Fair-Lending Enforcement," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262182289, June.
  15. 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.
  16. Becker, Gary S, 1993. "Nobel Lecture: The Economic Way of Looking at Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 385-409, June.
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