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Joint Labor Economics & PAM Workshop: Mackenzie Alston

Monday, December 14, 2020 at 11:30am to 1:00pm

Virtual Event

Mackenzie Alston, Florida State University

Does Black and Blue Matter?: An Experimental Investigation of Race and Perceptions of Police Bias

Abstract: High profile acts of violence by police against black civilians has renewed discussion of the racial bias held by police officers and inspired major policy pushes to increase the diversity of police departments. An underlying assumption is that a more racially diverse police department will lead to less racial bias and more public trust in police officers. In an experiment, we examine the potential consequences of such policies. First, we test whether black and white civilians perceive a difference in the probability of punishment when interacting with white versus minority police officers. Subjects complete several rounds in which they are asked to imagine that they are driving through a real but unnamed city in the United States. They are incentivized to reach their destination quickly; however, they have the potential of receiving a speeding ticket, which will reduce their earnings. The subjects are told that the probability that they receive a speeding ticket depends on their characteristics, real speeding tickets issued to people driving through that city, and information about people's general speeding behavior. In one treatment, subjects receive a description of a city and are informed that it has a predominantly white police department before they decide how fast they wish to drive in the first round. In the other treatment, subjects are informed that the city has a predominantly non-white police department. In the second round, subjects choose one piece of information regarding a new city. They then decide whether or not they wish to drive in the new city or the original city for round two. Based on the pilot data we have collected, we do not find evidence that black or white subjects change their speed based on the racial composition of the police department. However, there is evidence that black subjects are more interested in learning about police officers' race than white subjects are.

Dial-In Information

If you are interested in participating in this seminar, please email Heather LaCombe at for Zoom information.

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Event Type

Seminar, Class/ Workshop


Economics, Human Ecology Policy Analysis and Management, Policy Analysis and Management, College of Human Ecology


economics, EconSeminar, EconLabor

Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Heather LaCombe


Mackenzie Alston

Speaker Affiliation

Florida State University