Department or Program


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Kartini Shastry

Additional Advisor(s)

Kyung Park


In response to publicized shootings of minority civilians, several police agencies across the county have announced that they will hire more minority police officers. However, there is a dearth of quantitative research examining real-life consequences of police diversity. Between 1969 and 2000, a number of police departments were sued for racial and gender discrimination, and many responded by putting into place affirmative action policies. We use affirmative action litigation status of police departments to proxy for increases in workforce diversity, relying on evidence from previous studies with access to confidential demographic information on police workforces. Using litigation information on 479 of the largest state and local U.S. police departments and hospital data from counties across the U.S., we estimate the effect of affirmative action litigation on various measures of crime and deaths. We introduce a method to measure affirmative action litigation exposure at the county level, as our outcome variables are at the county level while our legal data is at the agency level. Our analysis relies on the assumption that all counties in our sample would have been on the same trend if they had the same exposure to litigated policing. We find that increases in exposure to affirmative action litigation led to a decrease in the probability that there would be a death due to police interaction for all persons, and this effect was driven by deaths among nonwhites. We also find a decrease in arrests after affirmative action litigation for all persons.