Measuring Racial Discrimination in Bail Decisions
We develop new quasi-experimental tools to measure disparate impact, regardless of its source, in the context of bail decisions. We show that omitted variables bias in pretrial release rate comparisons can be purged by using the quasi-random assignment of judges to estimate average pretrial misconduct risk by race. We find that two-thirds of the release rate disparity between white and Black defendants in New York City is due to the disparate impact of release decisions. We then develop a hierarchical marginal treatment effect model to study the drivers of disparate impact, finding evidence of both racial bias and statistical discrimination.
We thank Josh Angrist, Tim Armstrong, Leah Boustan, Sydnee Caldwell, Raj Chetty, John Donohue, Joseph Doyle, Matt Gentzkow, Ed Glaeser, Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham, Felipe Goncalves, Damon Jones, Chinhui Juhn, Scott Michelman, Conrad Miller, Derek Neal, Scott Nelson, Sam Norris, Evan Rose, Jesse Shapiro, Megan Stevenson, Alex Torgovitsky, Crystal Yang, four anonymous referees, and numerous seminar participants for helpful comments. Emily Battaglia, Nicole Gandre, Jared Grogan, Ashley Litwin, Alexia Olaizola, Bailey Palmer, Elise Parrish, Emma Rackstraw, and James Reeves provided excellent research assistance. The data we analyze are provided by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the Office of Court Administration (OCA). The opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not those of DCJS, OCA, or the National Bureau of Economic Research. Neither New York State, DCJS or OCA assumes liability for its contents or use thereof.
David Arnold & Will Dobbie & Peter Hull, 2022. "Measuring Racial Discrimination in Bail Decisions," American Economic Review, vol 112(9), pages 2992-3038. citation courtesy of