Prior research on police searches of motorists has consistently found that Black drivers are more likely to be searched than White drivers. The authors argue that race differences in police searches depend on the driver’s age. In logistic regression and propensity-score matching analyses of St. Louis police traffic stops, the authors find that young Black males are subjected to discretionary searches at higher rates than are young White males. By contrast, among drivers age 30 and older, Black males are no more likely, and in some analyses are less likely, than White males to be subjected to a discretionary search. The study findings are consistent with studies of young Black males’ negative experience with and attitudes toward the police. If replicated in future research, however, the findings suggest that it may be difficult to prove that police searches of young Black males result primarily from racial bias or unlawful discrimination.
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