“Reducing Racial Disparities in Crime Victimization: Evidence From Employment Discrimination Litigation”
Black Americans are substantially less safe than white Americans, with persistently higher risks of crime victimization. One possible cause of racial disparities in crime victimization may lie in racially disparate law enforcement responses to crime experienced by Black and white victims. We leverage idiosyncratic variation in the litigation of law enforcement agencies for racially discriminatory employment practices to identify changes in the nature of the police response to crime victimization.
Using data from the National Crime Victimization Survey between 1979 and 2004, and a series of estimators informed by recent developments in the econometrics literature, we find that successful litigation over racially discriminatory practices in law enforcement agencies substantially reduced Black crime victimization with no observable effects on white crime victimization. We explore possible causal mechanisms, finding that litigation over racially discriminatory employment practices reduced nonreporting of Black victimization attributable to mistrust in the police response, with no observable effects on the nonreporting of white victimization. Consistent with the existing literature, we also find that litigation increased Black officer shares and decreased white officer shares.
These findings suggest that interventions to reduce racially discriminatory practices in law enforcement agencies can lead to meaningful reductions in both absolute and relative Black crime victimization.
Anna Harvey is the 15th President and CEO of the Social Science Research Council; Professor of Politics, Affiliated Professor of Data Science, Affiliated Professor of Law, and Director of the Public Safety Lab at New York University; Co-Director of the Criminal Justice Expert Panel.
DISCUSSANT: Jonathan Mummolo, assistant professor of Politics and Public Affairs and Arthur H. Scribner Bicentennial Preceptor at Princeton University.