Using a Ratio Test to Estimate Racial Differences in Wrongful Conviction Rates

47 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2017

See all articles by David Bjerk

David Bjerk

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Eric Helland

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance; RAND

Abstract

We show that under arguably plausible assumptions regarding the DNA exoneration process, in expectation, the ratio of DNA exoneration rates across races among defendants convicted for the same crime in the same state provides an upper bound on the ratio of wrongful conviction rates across races among these defendants. Our estimates of this statistic reveal that among those sentenced to incarceration for rape in the United States between 1983 and 1997, the wrongful conviction rate among white defendants was less than two-thirds of what it was for black defendants. Our results with respect to murder are inconclusive.

Keywords: wrongful convictions, racial bias, judicial bias, exonerations, DNA evidence

JEL Classification: K14, J15

Suggested Citation

Bjerk, David and Helland, Eric A., Using a Ratio Test to Estimate Racial Differences in Wrongful Conviction Rates. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10631. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2940621

David Bjerk (Contact Author)

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance ( email )

500 E. Ninth St.
Claremont, CA 91711-6420
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Eric A. Helland

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance ( email )

500 E. Ninth St.
Claremont, CA 91711-6420
United States
909-607-7275 (Phone)
909-621-8243 (Fax)

RAND ( email )

1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA
United States

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