The Racial Profiling of Latinos in North Carolina Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Huerta-Bapat, Carmen
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • The Latino population in North Carolina grew exponentially since the turn of the millennium. This demographic shift raised the question: with almost no previous exposure to Latinos, how did North Carolina’s police agencies respond to the arrival of new Latino migrants? This project argues that the reception of police agencies toward Latinos is driven by the political attitudes of the white populations local police serve. White receptivity and hostility is a function of four factors: the economic gains realized from Latino migrants, the state’s urban/rural divide, fears in Republican jurisdictions that Latinos would alter traditional culture, and the political incentives of Republican sheriffs to target Latino migrants. In the state’s more liberal, urban areas, the disparity in police treatment of Latinos declined due to the economic gains Latinos provided to white constituents. On the other hand, the growth of the Latino population led to a cultural backlash in the state’s more rural, Republican areas. I test this argument using quantitative analysis of police behavior during routine traffic stops in 130 police and sheriffs’ departments in North Carolina from 2002 to 2014. I focus on the decision by police to search vehicles following stops, which examines how officers use their discretion upon identifying the race/ethnicity of drivers. The analysis produces three key findings. First, the growth of the Latino population relative to the white population is decreasing racial disparities in police treatment of Latinos in comparison to whites. Second, police behavior toward Latinos is politicized. Throughout the decade, the level of search disparity between Latinos and whites fell at a faster rate in urban, Democratic jurisdictions in comparison to more rural, Republican jurisdictions. Third, the level of racial disparity between Latinos and whites, as well as Latinos and African Americans, is highest in rural jurisdictions led by popularly elected Republican sheriffs. Taken together, the results indicate that police treatment of Latinos is improving at a faster rate in urban areas where migrants tend to provide relatively more economic benefits, but police treatment toward Latinos in the more rural, Republican areas remains relatively more hostile.
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  • In Copyright
  • Baumgartner, Frank
  • Andrews, Kenneth
  • Caren, Neal
  • Lopez-Sanders, Laura
  • Zimmer, Catherine
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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