Missing Rich Offenders: Traffic Accidents and the Impartiality of Justice

Madina Kurmangaliyeva (European University Institute)

Abstract: This paper estimates the effect that wealth and power have on criminal justice outcomes by exploiting the random matching of drivers to pedestrians in traffic accidents. If justice is impartial, we should observe the same share of rich offenders both for poor and rich victims, conditional on location and time. Rich victims act as a control group to estimate the proportion of missing rich offenders whose victims are less powerful. I use this estimation approach on data from Russia, and find that its justice system is not impartial. The same approach can be applied not only to other countries but also to other characteristics that should be irrelevant to judicial outcomes in an impartial legal system, such as race and gender.

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