Crime Versus Justice: Is There a Tradeoff?
Posted: 15 Oct 2001
When society is divided into two groups with different actual or perceived crime rates, maintaining a low crime rate, minimizing the total number of innocent individuals convicted of a crime and keeping the probability of wrongly convicting an innocent individual equal across groups are incompatible social goals. The model presented here fully develops these tradeoffs. An empirical application of the model finds that these trade-offs may be substantial. Specifically, we estimate that innocent black Americans would be roughly eight times more likely to be wrongly convicted of murder than innocent white Americans if society placed no value on equality when it comes to convictions. However, we estimate that eliminating inequality entirely could cost up to 1,900 lives annually due to a rise in the murder rate. Estimates also reveal similar findings for gender inequality. In highlighting this serious social dilemma, this paper suggests the need to be aware of costs of policies designed to lower crimes.
JEL Classification: J15, K4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation