The Mathematics of Actuarial Prediction: The Illusion of Efficiency

in Against Prediction

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2006 | ISBN: 9780226316130
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226315997 | DOI:
The Mathematics of Actuarial Prediction: The Illusion of Efficiency

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  • Constitutional and Administrative Law


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One of the strongest arguments for the use of actuarial methods is the economic argument based on deterrence and efficiency: assuming that people respond rationally to the costs and incentives of policing, using predictions based on group offending rates will result in greater detection of crime. By maximizing the detection of crime, law enforcement will deter the higher-offending targeted population. This is the most efficient allocation of law enforcement resources. A number of able economists are developing models of criminal profiling and demonstrating that using actuarial methods may be an efficient way to engage in law enforcement—in fact, that profiling based on group offending rates may be the most efficient way to allocate police resources. This chapter analyzes the mathematics of profiling, with special attention to the assumption of equal elasticity at the heart of the economic models of racial profiling.

Keywords: actuarial methods; deterrence; efficiency; policing; economic models; racial profiling; criminal profiling; law enforcement

Chapter.  12463 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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