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Racial Profiling, Statistical Discrimination, and the Effect of a Colorblind Policy on the Crime Rate

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  • David Bjerk

Abstract

Using a model similar to labor market models of statistical discrimination, I de- scribe how and why racial profiling can arise even when law enforcement officers are racially unbiased. Specifically, if one racial group has a higher fraction of individuals who are at risk of committing the relevant type of crime than another, and if law enforcement officers can observe a noisy signal of guilt in addition to an individual's race, then it will be optimal for officers to treat observationally equivalent individu- als of different races differently. Moreover, this model can be used to show how the effect of a racially colorblind policy on the overall crime rate for a particular type of crime will depend on the racial make-up of the relevant jurisdiction, the relative proportions of each racial group that are at risk of choosing to commit that crime, the proportion of the relevant population that officers can observe, the magnitude of the punishment for that particular type of crime, and distribution of the benefits to committing that particular crime. The implications coming from this analysis are then applied and analyzed with respect to two specific contexts--highway patrol vehicle searches for drugs or weapons, and border patrol investigations of foreign entrants for terrorist connections.

Suggested Citation

  • David Bjerk, 2004. "Racial Profiling, Statistical Discrimination, and the Effect of a Colorblind Policy on the Crime Rate," Department of Economics Working Papers 2004-11, McMaster University.
  • Handle: RePEc:mcm:deptwp:2004-11
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    File URL: http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/econ/rsrch/papers/archive/2004-11-profiling_WP.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. John Knowles & Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, 2001. "Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(1), pages 203-232, February.
    3. 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, August.
    4. 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, January.
    5. Kenneth Arrow, 1971. "The Theory of Discrimination," Working Papers 403, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    6. Lundberg, Shelly J & Startz, Richard, 1983. "Private Discrimination and Social Intervention in Competitive Labor Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 340-347, June.
    7. Cornell, Bradford & Welch, Ivo, 1996. "Culture, Information, and Screening Discrimination," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(3), pages 542-571, June.
    8. Farmer, Amy & Terrell, Dek, 2001. "Crime versus Justice: Is There a Trade-Off?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(2), pages 345-366, October.
    9. Coate, Stephen & Loury, Glenn C, 1993. "Will Affirmative-Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1220-1240, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mason, Patrick L., 2007. "Driving while black: do police pass the test?," MPRA Paper 11328, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Shamena Anwar & Hanming Fang, 2006. "An Alternative Test of Racial Prejudice in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 127-151, March.
    3. 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.
    4. Curry, Philip A. & Klumpp, Tilman, 2009. "Crime, punishment, and prejudice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(1-2), pages 73-84, February.
    5. Brock, William A. & Cooley, Jane & Durlauf, Steven N. & Navarro, Salvador, 2012. "On the observational implications of taste-based discrimination in racial profiling," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 166(1), pages 66-78.
    6. Sergio Parra Cely, 2011. "Group Profiling for Alcohol Impaired Motorists with Driving Skills Disparities: Should we Care for Fairness?," VNIVERSITAS ECONÓMICA 010089, UNIVERSIDAD JAVERIANA - BOGOTÁ.
    7. O’Flaherty, Brendan & Sethi, Rajiv, 2015. "Urban Crime," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing

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