Escaping the Long Arm of the Law? Racial Disparities in the Effect of Failure-to-Pay License Suspension
49 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2020 Last revised: 23 Jan 2021
Date Written: June 20, 2020
This paper studies the unintended consequences of failure-to-pay driver’s license suspensions, a common policy used to compel payment of outstanding court debts. Unlike other traffic enforcement papers which focus on the public benefit to increases in enforcement we focus on the private returns. Drawing on a unique administrative data set and institutional features that result in as-good-as random assignment of license suspension we estimate how suspension effects the probability a driver receives additional tickets in the future. We find a small, negative effect among White drivers but an increase of approximately nine percentage points among Black drivers. A series of supplemental analyses fail to detect differences in driving behavior across racial groups, leading us to conclude that our results are suggestive of differential treatment of black motorists by law enforcement.
Keywords: drivers license suspensions, externalities, crime, traffic enforcement
JEL Classification: K00, H41, H27
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation