Escaping the long arm of the law? Racial disparities in the effect of drivers' licence suspensions of offence probabilities

Author name: 
Mughan, S
Carroll, J

This paper studies the unintended consequences of failure-to-pay (FTP) driver’s license suspensions. Unlike other traffic enforcement papers which focus on the public benefit to increases in enforcement we focus on the private returns. Drawing on a unique administrative dataset and institutional features that result in as-good-as random assignment of FTP suspension we estimate the effect of these suspensions on the probability a driver receives additional tickets. We find that financial penalties and FTP suspensions reduce the probability of reoffence for White drivers. However, among Black drivers’ financial penalties have no effect and FTP suspension increases the probability of reoffence by six to nine percentage points. A series of additional analyses fail to produce evidence of racial differences in driver’s response to FTP suspension, leading us to conclude that following suspension drivers make behavioral adjustments to minimize the probability of future tickets. However, these behavioral adjustments are only effective for White drivers.

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