Fiscal Pressures and Discriminatory Policing: Evidence from Traffic Stops in Missouri

36 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2018 Last revised: 31 Mar 2019

See all articles by Allison P. Harris

Allison P. Harris

Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Elliott Ash

ETH Zurich

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School

Date Written: March 30, 2019

Abstract

This paper provides evidence of racial variation in local governments' traffic enforcement responses to budget stress using data from policing agencies in the state of Missouri for the years 2001 through 2012. Like previous studies, we find that local budget stress is associated with higher citation rates. In addition, we find that there is an increase in traffic-stop arrests. However, we find that these effects are concentrated among white (rather than black or Hispanic) drivers. The results are robust to the inclusion of a range of covariates for traffic stops and to the inclusion of local population features interacted with year. The effect on citations holds in a regression-discontinuity specification looking at bare budget shortfalls. These results are consistent with a model where traffic police selectively target higher-income drivers to compensate for budget stress. Also consistent with this view, we find that the racial difference in citation rates is highest where the white-to-black income ratio is highest.

Keywords: local public finance, policing, traffic stops, discrimination

JEL Classification: K14,H72,J15

Suggested Citation

Harris, Allison P. and Ash, Elliott and Fagan, Jeffrey, Fiscal Pressures and Discriminatory Policing: Evidence from Traffic Stops in Missouri (March 30, 2019). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-591. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3192562 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3192562

Allison P. Harris (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - University Park ( email )

201 Shields Building
University Park, PA 16802-1294
United States

Elliott Ash

ETH Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
ZUE F7
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-2624 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Jeffrey_Fagan

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