Reducing racial disparities in crime victimization: Evidence from employment discrimination litigation

Anna Harvey, Taylor Mattia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Black Americans are substantially less safe than white Americans, with persistently higher risks of crime victimization. One possible cause of racial disparities in crime victimization may lie in racially disparate law enforcement responses to crime experienced by Black and white victims. We leverage idiosyncratic variation in the litigation of law enforcement agencies for racially discriminatory employment practices to identify changes in the nature of the police response to Black crime victimization. Using data from the National Crime Victimization Survey between 1979 and 2004, and a series of estimators appropriate for difference-in-differences designs with staggered treatment, we find that litigation over racially discriminatory employment practices in law enforcement agencies decreased Black crime victimization by magnitudes ranging between 24 - 27%, but had no discernible impacts on white crime victimization, reducing the pretreatment racial gap in crime victimization by 73 - 82%. Decreases in Black crime victimization appear in the first year after litigation onset, consistent with efforts by litigated departments to address racial disparities in the police response to reported crime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103459
JournalJournal of Urban Economics
StatePublished - May 2024


  • Affirmative action
  • Crime
  • Employment discrimination
  • Policing
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Urban Studies


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