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Using Hit Rate Tests to Test for Racial Bias in Law Enforcement: Vehicle Searches in Wichita

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  • Nicola Persico
  • Petra Todd

Abstract

This paper considers the use of outcomes-based tests for detecting racial bias in the context of police searches of motor vehicles. It shows that the test proposed in Knowles, Persico and Todd (2001) can also be applied in a more general environment where police officers are heterogenous in their tastes for discrimination and in their costs of search and motorists are heterogeneous in their benefits and costs from criminal behavior. We characterize the police and motorist decision problems in a game theoretic framework and establish properties of the equilibrium. We also extend the model to the case where drivers' characteristics are mutable in the sense that drivers can adapt some of their characteristics to reduce the probability of being monitored. After developing the theory that justifies the application of outcomes-based tests, we apply the tests to data on police searches of motor vehicles gathered by the Wichita Police deparment. The empirical findings are consistent with the notion that police in Wichita choose their search strategies to maximize successful searches, and not out of racial bias.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, 2004. "Using Hit Rate Tests to Test for Racial Bias in Law Enforcement: Vehicle Searches in Wichita," NBER Working Papers 10947, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10947
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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. 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. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Bunzel, Helle & Marcoul, Philippe, 2008. "Can racially unbiased police perpetuate long-run discrimination?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 36-47, October.
    6. SCHMEIDLER, David, 1973. "Equilibrium points of nonatomic games," LIDAM Reprints CORE 146, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    7. Charles F. Manski, 2006. "Search Profiling With Partial Knowledge of Deterrence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(515), pages 385-401, November.
    8. Igal Milchtaich, 2000. "Generic Uniqueness of Equilibrium in Large Crowding Games," Mathematics of Operations Research, INFORMS, vol. 25(3), pages 349-364, August.
    9. Nicola Persico, 2002. "Racial Profiling, Fairness, and Effectiveness of Policing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1472-1497, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. John J. Donohue III, 2005. "The Law and Economics of Antidiscrimination Law," NBER Working Papers 11631, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Garrick Blalock & Jed DeVaro & Stephanie Leventhal & Daniel Simon, 2011. "Gender bias in power relationships: evidence from police traffic stops," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(29), pages 4469-4485.
    3. Nicola Persico & Petra E. Todd, 2005. "Passenger Profiling, Imperfect Screening, and Airport Security," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 127-131, May.
    4. 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.
    5. Minzner Max & Anderson Christopher M., 2013. "Do Warrants Matter?," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 9(2), pages 169-196, September.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J70 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - General
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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