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Can Racially Unbiased Police Perpetuate Long-Run Discrimination?

  • Bunzel, Helle
  • Marcoul, Philippe

We develop a stylized dynamic model of highway policing in which a non-racist police officer exhibits a cognitive bias: relative overconfidence. The officer is given incentives to arrest criminals but faces a per stop cost which increases when the racial mix of her stops differs from that of the population. Every period, she observes the racial composition of jail inmates (generated from arrests made by her peers) and forms estimates about the crime rates of each race. In some settings, her overconfidence leads her to overestimate the crime rate of one race relative to another causing the long-run racial composition of the jail population to deviate from the "fair" one (one where the racial mix in jails is identical to that in the criminal population). We compare this to a situation where officers have detailed stop data on each race, similar to data being currently collected in many US states.

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File URL: http://www.econ.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/publications/papers/paper_10200_03004.pdf
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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 10200.

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Date of creation: 05 Mar 2003
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 2008, vol. 60 no. 1, pp. 36-47
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:10200
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Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070

Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
Web page: http://www.econ.iastate.edu
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  1. 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.
  2. Glaser, Markus & Weber, Martin, 2003. "Overconfidence and trading volume," Papers 03-07, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
  3. John Knowles & Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, . "Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," Penn CARESS Working Papers 5940d5c4875c571776fb29700, Penn Economics Department.
  4. Lu�s Santos-Pinto & Joel Sobel, 2005. "A Model of Positive Self-Image in Subjective Assessments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1386-1402, December.
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  7. Verdier, T. & Zenou, Y., 2000. "Racial Beliefs , Location and the Causes of Crime," DELTA Working Papers 2000-26, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
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  13. Brad M. Barber & Terrance Odean, 2001. "Boys will be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence, and Common Stock Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 261-292.
  14. Eric Van den Steen, 2004. "Rational Overoptimism (and Other Biases)," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1141-1151, September.
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  16. 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.
  17. Biais, Bruno & Hilton, Denis & Mazurier, Karine & Pouget, Sébastien, 2004. "Judgmental Overconfidence, Self-Monitoring and Trading Performance in an Experimental Financial Market," IDEI Working Papers 259, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  18. Nicola Persico, 2002. "Racial Profiling, Fairness, and Effectiveness of Policing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1472-1497, December.
  19. Ján Zábojník, 2004. "A model of rational bias in self-assessments," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 259-282, January.
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  21. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 2, number 9780226041162.
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