Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Additional Theory and Evidence

24 Pages Posted: 6 May 2003

See all articles by Dhammika Dharmapala

Dhammika Dharmapala

UC Berkeley School of Law; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Stephen L. Ross

University of Connecticut - Department of Economics

Abstract

Knowles, Persico, and Todd (2001) develop a model of police search and offender behavior. Their model implies that if police are unprejudiced the rate of guilt should not vary across groups. Using data from Interstate 95 in Maryland, they find equal guilt rates for African-Americans and whites and conclude that the data is not consistent with racial prejudice against African-Americans. This paper generalizes the model of Knowles, Persico, and Todd by accounting for the fact that potential offenders are frequently not observed by the police and by including two different levels of offense severity. The paper shows that for African-American males the data is consistent with prejudice against African-American males, no prejudice, and reverse discrimination depending on the form of equilibria that exists in the economy. Additional analyses based on stratification by type of vehicle and time of day were conducted, but did not shed any light on the form of equilibria that best represents the situation in Maryland during the sample period.

Keywords: Prejudice, Discrimination, Law enforcement, Motor vehicle searches

JEL Classification: K42, J70

Suggested Citation

Dharmapala, Dhammika and Ross, Stephen L., Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Additional Theory and Evidence. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=391900 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.391900

Dhammika Dharmapala (Contact Author)

UC Berkeley School of Law ( email )

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Stephen L. Ross

University of Connecticut - Department of Economics ( email )

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