Not So Black and White: Uncovering Racial Bias from Systematically Masked Trooper Reports

45 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2019 Last revised: 11 Aug 2019

See all articles by Elizabeth Luh

Elizabeth Luh

University of Houston - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 6, 2019

Abstract

Biased law enforcement may purposely mis-record, or mask, the race of citizens that they interact with in order to evade detection. Journalists indeed uncovered widespread evidence of such masking among Texas Highway troopers from 2010 to 2015. I propose a new test of racial bias in the presence of masking that is more powerful than standard tests and is well-suited to explore the rich heterogeneity in bias. Using various data-driven techniques to detect masking, I estimate that 24% of over 130,000 searches were masked, with over half being Hispanic drivers being mis-recorded as White when searches failed to turn up contraband. I find that Hispanic and White troopers are biased against non-White motorists, with Hispanic motorists being treated the most unfairly. Using my model, I also find statistically significant evidence of institutional racial bias and ‘bad apple’ troopers across Texas.

Keywords: Discrimination, Cheating, Racial Bias, Troopers, Highway Patrol, Social Norms, Institutions

JEL Classification: J71, K42

Suggested Citation

Luh, Elizabeth, Not So Black and White: Uncovering Racial Bias from Systematically Masked Trooper Reports (August 6, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3357063 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3357063

Elizabeth Luh (Contact Author)

University of Houston - Department of Economics ( email )

Houston, TX 77204-5882
United States

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