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"Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence''

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  • John Knowles
  • Nicola Persico
  • Petra Todd

Abstract

Police checking for illegal drugs are much more likely to search the vehicles of African-American motorists than those of white motorists. This paper develops a model of police and motorist behavior that suggests an empirical test for distinguishing whether this disparity is due to racial prejudice or to the police's objective to maximize arrests. When applied to vehicle search data from Maryland, our test results are consistent with the hypothesis of no racial prejudice against African-American motorists. However, if police have utility only for searches yielding large drug finds, then our analysis would suggest bias against white drivers. The model's prediction regarding nonrace characteristics is also largely supported by the data.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • John Knowles & Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, "undated". ""Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence''," CARESS Working Papres 99-06, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:pennca:99-06
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    File URL: http://www.ssc.upenn.edu/econ/CARESS/CARESSpdf/99-06.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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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