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

See all articles by Sian Mughan

Sian Mughan

Schoool of Public Affairs, Arizona State University

Joanna Carroll

Indiana University

Date Written: June 20, 2020

Abstract

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

Mughan, Sian and Carroll, Joanna, Escaping the Long Arm of the Law? Racial Disparities in the Effect of Failure-to-Pay License Suspension (June 20, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3631885 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3631885

Sian Mughan (Contact Author)

Schoool of Public Affairs, Arizona State University ( email )

Farmer Building 440G PO Box 872011
Tempe, AZ 85287
United States

Joanna Carroll

Indiana University ( email )

107 S Indiana Ave
100 South Woodlawn
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
52
Abstract Views
390
rank
524,411
PlumX Metrics