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A New Look at Racial Profiling: Evidence from the Boston Police Department

University of California, San Diego
Brown University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

July 2004

NBER Working Paper No. W10634
This paper provides new evidence on the role of preference-based versus statistical discrimination in racial profiling using a unique data set that includes the race of both the driver and the officer. We first generalize the model presented in Knowles, Persico and Todd (2001) and show that the fundamental insight that allows them to distinguish between statistical discrimination and preference-based discrimination depends on the specialized shapes of the best response functions in their model. Thus, the test that they employ is not robust to a range of alternative modeling assumptions. However, we also show that if statistical discrimination alone explains differences in the rate at which the vehicles of drivers of different races are searched, then search decisions should be independent of officer race. We then test this prediction using data from the Boston Police Department. Consistent with preference-based discrimination, our baseline results demonstrate that officers are more likely to conduct a search if the race of the officer differs from the race of the driver. We then investigate and rule out two alternative explanations for our findings: race-based informational asymmetries between officers and the assignment of officers to neighborhoods.

JEL Classifications: K0, H0
Working Paper Series
Abstract has been viewed 64 times

Contact Information for BRIAN G. KNIGHT (Contact Author)

Email address for BRIAN G. KNIGHT
Brown University - Department of Economics
64 Waterman Street
Providence , RI 02912
United States

(No e-mail address available for BRIAN G. KNIGHT
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge , MA 02138
United States

Contact Information for KATE ANTONOVICS

Email address for KATE ANTONOVICS
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla , CA 92093-0502
United States
858-534-2973 (Phone)

Suggested Citation
Antonovics, Kate and Knight, Brian G., "A New Look at Racial Profiling: Evidence from the Boston Police Department" (July 2004). NBER Working Paper No. W10634.
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