Measuring Racial Discrimination in Bail Decisions
86 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2020 Last revised: 14 Apr 2023
Date Written: April 2020
We develop new quasi-experimental tools to measure disparate impact, regardless of its source, in the context of bail decisions. We show that omitted variables bias in pretrial release rate comparisons can be purged by using the quasi-random assignment of judges to estimate average pretrial misconduct risk by race. We find that two-thirds of the release rate disparity between white and Black defendants in New York City is due to the disparate impact of release decisions. We then develop a hierarchical marginal treatment effect model to study the drivers of disparate impact, finding evidence of both racial bias and statistical discrimination.
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