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The Impact of Race on Policing, Arrest Patterns, and Crime

  • John J. Donohue III
  • Steven D. Levitt

Race has long been recognized as playing a critical role in policing. In spite of this awareness, there has been virtually no previous research attempting to quantitatively analyze the issue. In this paper, we examine the relationship between the racial composition of a city's police force and the racial patterns of arrests and crime. Increases in the number of minority police are associated with significant increases in arrests of whites, but have little impact on arrests of non-whites. Similarly arrests of non-whites, but do not systematically affect the number of white arrests. The race of police officers has a less clear-cut impact on crime rates. It appears that own-race policing may be more effective in reducing property crime, but no systematic differences are observed for violent crime. These results are consistent either with own-race policing leading to fewer false arrests or greater deterrence. In either case, own-race policing appears more "efficient" in fighting property crime.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w6784.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6784.

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Date of creation: Nov 1998
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Publication status: Published as "Continuous Versus Episodic Change: The Impact of Civil Rights Policy on the Economic Status of Blacks", Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 29, no. 4 (1991): 1603-
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6784
Note: LE PE
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  1. Cameron, Samuel, 1988. "The Economics of Crime Deterrence: A Survey of Theory and Evidence," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(2), pages 301-23.
  2. Steven D. Levitt, 1995. "Why Do Increased Arrest Rates Appear to Reduce Crime: Deterrence, Incapacitation, or Measurement Error?," NBER Working Papers 5268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Steven D. Levitt, 1995. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Policeon Crime," NBER Working Papers 4991, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Orley Ashenfelter & James Heckman, 1974. "Measuring the Effect of an Antidiscrimination Program," Working Papers 432, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  5. Julie Berry Cullen & Steven D. Levitt, 1996. "Crime, Urban Flight, and the Consequences for Cities," NBER Working Papers 5737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Decker, Scott H. & Smith, Russell L., 1980. "Police minority recruitment: A note on its effectiveness in improving black evaluations of the police," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 8(6), pages 387-393.
  7. Bowles, Roger & Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. "Casual police corruption and the economics of crime," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 75-87, March.
  8. Jonathan S. Leonard, 1984. "The Impact of Affirmative Action on Employment," NBER Working Papers 1310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Leonard, Jonathan S, 1990. "The Impact of Affirmative Action Regulation and Equal Employment Law on Black Employment," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 47-63, Fall.
  10. Hochstedler, Ellen & Conley, John A., 1986. "Explaining underrepresentation of black officers in city police agencies," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 319-328.
  11. McCormick, Robert E & Tollison, Robert D, 1984. "Crime on the Court," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(2), pages 223-35, April.
  12. Mauro, Paolo, 1995. "Corruption and Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 681-712, August.
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