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Would Eliminating Racial Disparities in Motor Vehicle Searches Have Efficiency Costs?
The Quarterly Journal of Economics  (IF11.375),  Pub Date : 2021-05-21, DOI: 10.1093/qje/qjab018
Benjamin Feigenberg, Conrad Miller

During traffic stops, police search black and Hispanic motorists more than twice as often as white motorists, yet those searches are no more likely to yield contraband. We ask whether equalizing search rates by motorist race would reduce contraband yield. We use unique administrative data from Texas to isolate variation in search behavior across and within highway patrol troopers and find that search rates are unrelated to the proportion of searches that yield contraband. We find that troopers can equalize search rates across racial groups, maintain the status quo search rate, and increase contraband yield. Troopers appear to be limited in their ability to discern between motorists that are more or less likely to carry contraband.