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Ulric B. and Evelyn L. Bray Social Sciences Seminar

Tuesday, April 27, 2021
12:00pm to 1:00pm
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Online Event
Are Police Racially Biased in the Decision to Shoot?
Tom Clark, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Political Science, Emory University,

Abstract: We present a theoretical model predicting racially biased policing produces 1) more use of potentially lethal force by firearms against Black civilians than against White civilians and 2) lower fatality rates for Black civilians than White civilians. We empirically evaluate this second prediction with original officer-involved shooting data from nine local police jurisdictions from 2005 to 2017, finding that Black fatality rates are significantly lower than White fatality rates, conditional upon civilians being shot by the police. Using outcome test methodology, we estimate that at least 30% of Black civilians shot by the police would not have been shot had they been White. We also show that an omitted covariate three times stronger than our strongest included covariate would only reduce this estimate to 18%. Additionally, such an omitted covariate would have to affect Black fatality rates and not Hispanic fatality rates in order to be consistent with the data.

For more information, or if you are interested in attending this online seminar, please contact Barbara Estrada by email at bestrada@caltech.edu.