Measuring Appearance-Based Discrimination: an Analysis of Identity Checks in Paris

Fabien Jobard  By the same author

      René Lévy  By the same author

      John Lamberth  By the same author

      Sophie Névanen  By the same author


AbstractThis article sets out the main results of a survey conducted by the Centre for Sociological Research on Law and Criminal Justice Institutions (CESDIP; CI Survey) and the Open Society Institute (OSI) to establish whether the identity checks made by Parisian law enforcement officers reflect ethnic (or racial) profiling and, if so, to provide quantified estimates. The survey was conducted at five different locations in the French capital between October 2007 and May 2008. After noting the characteristics of the population available to be stopped, the people singled out for identity checks by the police were discreetly observed in order to measure any discrepancies between the two. We analysed six descriptive variables (sex, age, apparent origin, clothing, presence/absence of bags, and location) and the interactions between them. The results revealed a situation in which direct appearance-based discrimination was coupled with indirect discrimination based on a set of characteristics which, while not intrinsically ethnic or racial, are distributed in such a way that their use in deciding which individuals to stop nonetheless leads to disparities between the two populations.

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