NBER

David Arnold

Industrial Relations Section
Louis A. Simpson International Bldg.
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-2098

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Institutional Affiliation: Princeton University

NBER Working Papers and Publications

April 2020Measuring Racial Discrimination in Bail Decisions
with Will S. Dobbie, Peter Hull: w26999
We develop new quasi-experimental tools to measure racial discrimination in the context of bail decisions. Observational comparisons of white and black pretrial release rates suffer from omitted variables bias when there are unobserved racial differences in pretrial misconduct potential. We show that the bias in these observational comparisons is a function of average white and black misconduct risk, which can be estimated from the quasi-random assignment of bail judges. Estimates from New York City show that less than one-third of the release rate disparity between white and black defendants is explained by unobserved differences in misconduct potential, with more than two-thirds explained by racial discrimination. We then develop a hierarchical marginal treatment effects model that impos...
May 2017Racial Bias in Bail Decisions
with Will Dobbie, Crystal S. Yang: w23421
This paper develops a new test for identifying racial bias in the context of bail decisions – a high-stakes setting with large disparities between white and black defendants. We motivate our analysis using Becker's (1957) model of racial bias, which predicts that rates of pre-trial misconduct will be identical for marginal white and marginal black defendants if bail judges are racially unbiased. In contrast, marginal white defendants will have a higher probability of misconduct than marginal black defendants if bail judges are racially biased against blacks. To test the model, we develop a new estimator that uses the release tendencies of quasi-randomly assigned bail judges to identify the relevant race-specific misconduct rates. Estimates from Miami and Philadelphia show that bail judges ...

Published: David Arnold & Will Dobbie & Crystal S Yang, 2018. "Racial Bias in Bail Decisions*," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol 133(4), pages 1885-1932.

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