Coase-Sandor Working Paper Series in Law and Economics

Imputing Unreported Hate Crimes Using Google Search Data

Dhammika Dharmapala
Aziz Huq


U.S. law requires the Attorney General to collect data hate crime victimization from states and municipalities. But states and localities are under no obligation to cooperate. Data production hence varies considerably across jurisdictions. This Article addresses the ensuing “missing data” problem by imputing unreported hate crimes using Google search rates for racial epithets. As a benchmark, it uses two alternative definitions of which jurisdictions more effectively collect hate crime data: all states that were not part of the erstwhile Confederacy, and states with statutory provisions relating to hate crime reporting. We regress hate crime rates for racially-motivated hate crimes with African-American victims on Google searches and other relevant variables over 2004-2015 at the state-year level for each group of benchmark states. Google search rates substantially enhance the capacity of such models to predict hate crime rates among benchmark states. We use the results of these regressions to impute hate crime rates, out-of-sample, to non-benchmark jurisdictions that do not robustly report hate crimes. The results imply a substantial number of unreported hate crimes, concentrated in particular jurisdictions. It also illustrates how internet search rates can be a source of data for hard-to-measure victimization patterns.