NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Looking at Racial-Profiling Statistics

August 27, 2001

Some groups claim that police stop minority drivers far more frequently than they do white drivers. To determine if racial profiling by police is responsible, jurisdictions as disparate as San Jose, Calif. and Volusia County, Fla., have been conducting traffic-stop studies.

Researchers came to some interesting conclusions when they examined Minneapolis. The raw data initially appeared to support the contention that police there were stopping minorities for traffic violations far out of proportion to their numbers.

But when statistical safeguards were applied, the reasons why minority drivers were stopped more often emerged.

  • Black drivers in Minneapolis are more likely to drive older cars than whites -- since their incomes are less than half of white residents -- and are therefore more likely to be pulled over for equipment violations.
  • While blacks represent only 18 percent of the city's population, they are 31 percent of residents under 18 -- and as every parent knows and fears, youthful drivers are more likely to speed and take greater driving risks.
  • Statistics show that minority neighborhoods are far more likely to host serious crimes -- which means that police concentrate their resources in these areas, where minorities are over-represented among the population of drivers.

Traffic stops in these neighborhoods are an important tool for police to get guns and drugs off the street, discourage robberies, find stolen cars, and apprehend people wanted for arrest.

Source: Katherine Kersten (Center of the American Experiment), "Race to Conclusions," Weekly Standard, August 20, 2001.


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