Local Public Finance and Discriminatory Policing: Evidence from Traffic Stops in Missouri

29 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2018

See all articles by Elliott Ash

Elliott Ash

University of Warwick

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School

Allison Harris

Princeton University; Pennsylvania State University - University Park

Date Written: June 2, 2018

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 2014. 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. This statistical difference is robust to the inclusion of a range of covariates for traffic stops and to the inclusion of local population features interacted with year. 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 and arrest rates is highest where the white-to-black income ratio is highest.

Keywords: race, policing, Missouri, traffic stops

Suggested Citation

Ash, Elliott and Fagan, Jeffrey and Harris, Allison, Local Public Finance and Discriminatory Policing: Evidence from Traffic Stops in Missouri (June 2, 2018). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-591. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3192562

Elliott Ash (Contact Author)

University of Warwick ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

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

Allison Harris

Princeton University

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

Pennsylvania State University - University Park ( email )

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

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