This is one of the subpages to the Criminal Justice Disparities page of jpscanlan.com. That page and its subpages principally explain that contrary to the belief promoted by federal agencies and numerous entities purporting to have expertise in the analysis of demographic differences, generally reducing adverse criminal justice outcomes tend to increase, not reduce, (a) relative racial differences in rates of experiencing the outcome and (b) the proportion Blacks make up of persons experiencing the outcomes. The Criminal Justice Disparities page contain links to many references explaining this issue in the criminal justice context. A fairly simple explanation may be found in “Things DoJ doesn’t know about racial disparities in Ferguson,” The Hill (Feb. 22, 2016). A recent, somewhat fuller explanation may be found in “A Criminal Justice Reform Premise That Is Statistically Flawed,” Law360-Access to Justice (Apr. 5, 2021).
The article discussed that between 1998 and 2000 the U.S. Customs Service implemented a number of reforms aimed at reducing racial disproportionality in searches by generally restricting the use of searches. Reforms included requiring supervisory approval for intrusive searches. The article discussed the program, which dramatically reduced the number of searches, as one that in fact was reducing racial disproportionality.
The data provided, however, showed that, in accordance with what one a numerate observers should expect in circumstances where Blacks made up a larger proportion of persons searched in 1998 than they did of the population that might be searched by Customs Inspectors, the general declines in searches were accompanied by an increase in the proportion Blacks made up of persons searched. The suggestion of increasing racial disproportionality is premised on the assumption that the proportion Blacks made up of persons potentially searched did not dramatically.
Table 2. Change in black proportion of persons searched by U.S. Customs Service between 1998 and 2000 (a period during which the Service enacted reforms restricting the use of searches, including by, inter alia, requiring supervisory approval for intrusive searches)
Black Proportion of Persons Searched
If information were available on the proportion Blacks made US up of persons potentially searched, it would be possible to derive the ratio of the rate at which Blacks were searched to the ratio at which other persons were searched. For example, if the Black proportion of persons potentially searched was 7% in both years, the ratio of Black search rate to the rate of other person would have been 2.39 in the 1998 and 4.94 in 2000; if the Black proportion of persons potentially searched was 10 in both years, the ratio of Black search rate to the rate of other person would have been 2.39 in the 1998 and 4.94 in 2000;
It is important to understand, however, that an increase in the ratio of the Black search rate to the rate of other persons does not mean that racial disparity is increasing in a meaningful sense. If the actual search rates were available they would likely show that the relative difference in rates of avoiding searches and absolute differences None of the measures, however, is a sound indicator of whether the forces causing Black and white rates to difference have increased or decreased over time.
But there is reason to believe that the additional requirements for authorization of a search would tend to reduce the role of inappropriate considerations. With the actual rates, one might be able to divine whether there has been any change in the forces caused the search rates of Black persons and other persons to differ, such a by the means suggested in “Race and Mortality Revisited,” Society (July/Aug. 2014).