Research / BFI Working PaperDec 09, 2022

High-Frequency Location Data Shows That Race Affects the Likelihood of Being Stopped and Fined for Speeding

Pradhi Aggarwal, Alec Brandon, Ariel Goldszmidt, Justin Holz, John List, Ian Muir, Gregory Sun, Thomas Yu

Prior research finds that, conditional on an encounter, minority civilians are more likely to be punished by police than white civilians. An open question is whether the actual encounter is related to race. Using high-frequency location data of rideshare drivers operating on the Lyft platform in Florida, we estimate the effect of driver race on traffic stops and fines for speeding. Estimates obtained across traditional and machine learning approaches show that, relative to a white driver traveling the same speed, minorities are 24 to 33 percent more likely to be stopped for speeding and pay 23 to 34 percent more in fines. We find no evidence that these estimates can be explained by racial differences in accident and re-offense rates. Our approach provides key insights into the total effect of civilian race on outcomes of interest and highlights the methodological import of combining high-frequency data and machine learning to evaluate critical social issues.

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