Police Force Size and Civilian Race

70 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2020 Last revised: 16 Feb 2022

See all articles by Aaron Chalfin

Aaron Chalfin

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Criminology

Benjamin Hansen

University of Oregon - Department of Economics; NBER; IZA

Emily Weisburst

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Luskin School of Public Affairs; University of Texas at Austin

Morgan Williams

New York University (NYU) - New York University

Date Written: December 2020

Abstract

We report the first empirical estimate of the race-specific effects of larger police forces in the United States. Each additional police officer abates approximately 0.1 homicides. In per capita terms, effects are twice as large for Black versus white victims. At the same time, larger police forces make more arrests for low-level “quality-of-life” offenses, with effects that imply a disproportionate burden for Black Americans. Notably, cities with large Black populations do not share equally in the benefits of investments in police manpower. Our results provide novel empirical support for the popular narrative that Black communities are simultaneously over and under-policed.

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Suggested Citation

Chalfin, Aaron and Hansen, Benjamin and Weisburst, Emily and Williams, Morgan, Police Force Size and Civilian Race (December 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w28202, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3753107

Aaron Chalfin (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Criminology ( email )

483 McNeil Building
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Benjamin Hansen

University of Oregon - Department of Economics ( email )

1285 University of ORegon
Eugene, OR 97403
United States

NBER ( email )

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IZA ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Emily Weisburst

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Luskin School of Public Affairs ( email )

3250 Public Affairs Building
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1656
United States

University of Texas at Austin ( email )

2317 Speedway
Austin, TX 78712
United States

Morgan Williams

New York University (NYU) - New York University

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