“Special Report: Tax Time -- A Workshop on Empirical Public Finance” (with L. Tedds)

Canadian Tax Journal vol. 59 (4), 2011

“Mandatory Sentencing and Racial Disparity: Assessing the Role of Prosecutors and the Effects of Booker” (with S. Starr)

Yale Law Journal 123 (1): 2-80

This Article presents new empirical evidence concerning the effects of United States v. Booker, which loosened the formerly mandatory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, on racial disparities in federal criminal cases. Two serious limitations pervade existing empirical literature on sentencing disparities. First, studies focus on sentencing in isolation, controlling for the “presumptive sentence” or similar measures that themselves result from discretionary charging, plea-bargaining, and fact-finding processes. Any disparities in these earlier processes are excluded from the resulting sentence-disparity estimates. Our research has shown that this exclusion matters: pre-sentencing decision-making can have substantial sentence-disparity consequences. Second, existing studies have used loose causal inference methods that fail to disentangle the effects of sentencing-law changes, such as Booker, from surrounding events and trends. In contrast, we use a dataset that traces cases from arrest to sentencing, allowing us to assess Booker’s effects on disparities in charging, plea-bargaining, and fact-finding, as well as sentencing. We disentangle background trends by using a rigorous regression discontinuity-style design. Contrary to other studies (and in particular, the dramatic recent claims of the U.S. Sentencing Commission), we find no evidence that racial disparity has increased since Booker, much less because of Booker. Unexplained racial disparity remains persistent, but does not appear to have increased following the expansion of judicial discretion

“Economic Loss Due to Traumatic Injury in Uganda" (with N. O'Hara, R. Mugarura, J. Potter, T. Stephens, P. Francois, P. Blachut, P. O'Brien, B. Fashola, A. Mezeid, T. Beyeza and G. Slobogean).

Injury 47(5).

Traumatic injury is a growing public health concern globally, and is a major cause of death and disability worldwide. The purpose of this study was to quantify the socioeconomic impact of lower extremity fractures in Uganda.  All adult patients presenting acutely to Uganda's national referral hospital with a single long bone lower extremity fracture in October 2013 were recruited. Consenting patients were surveyed at admission and again at six-months and 12-months post-injury. The primary outcome was the cumulative 12-month post-injury loss in income. Secondary outcome measures included the change in health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and the injury's effect on school attendance for the patients' dependents. This study demonstrates that lower extremity fractures in Uganda had a profound impact on the socioeconomic status of the individuals in our sample population, as well as the socioeconomic health of the family unit.

“Helping Workers Online and Offline: Union and Nonunion Organizations as Labor Market Intermediaries” (with R. Freeman)

In David Autor (ed.) Labor Market Intermediation. University of Chicago Press for NBER, 2009.
Earlier draft: NBER Working Paper #13850

“Policy Watch: Trade Adjustment Assistance” (with K. Baicker)

Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 18 (2), 2004

“Racial Disparity in Federal Sentences” (with S. Starr).

Journal of Political Economy 122(6): 1320-1354

Using rich data linking federal cases from arrest through to sentencing, we find that initial case and defendant characteristics, including arrest
offense and criminal history, can explain most of the large raw racial disparity in federal sentences, but significant gaps remain. Across the
distribution, blacks receive sentences that are almost 10 percent longer than those of comparable whites arrested for the same crimes. Most of this disparity can be explained by prosecutors’ initial charging decisions, particularly the filing of charges carrying mandatory minimum sentences. Ceteris paribus, the odds of black arrestees facing such a charge are 1.75 times higher than those of white arrestees.

Earlier version with more extensive charging analysis: “Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal Charging and Its Sentencing Consequences,”      Michigan Law and Economics Working Paper #12-002.

“On Estimating Disparity and Inferring Causation: Sur-Reply to the US Sentencing Commission Staff” (with S. Starr)

Yale Law Journal Online 123, 2013


Book Chapters

“Physicians Treating Physicians: Information and Incentives in Childbirth” (with E. Johnson)

American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 8(1): 115-41.

This paper provides new evidence on the interaction between patient information and physician financial incentives. Using rich microdata on childbirth, we compare the treatment of physicians when they are patients with that of comparable nonphysicians. We also exploit the presence of HMO-owned hospitals to determine how the treatment gap varies with providers' financial incentives. Consistent with induced demand, physicians are approximately 10 percent less likely to receive a C-section, with only a quarter of this effect attributable to differential sorting. While financial incentives affect the treatment of nonphysicians, physician-patients are largely unaffected. Physicians also have better health outcomes. (JEL D83, I11, J16, J44)

Paper   Data Appendix    Plain English Overview
Earlier draft: NBER Working Paper #19242.

Working Papers

A Doctor Will See you Now : Provider Continuity and Patient Outcomes
(with E Johnson, D. Carusi and D. Chan)

We estimate the effect of physician-patient relationships on clinical decisions in a setting where the treating physician is as good as randomly assigned. OBs are 25% (4 percentage points) \textbf{more} likely to perform a C-section when delivering patients with whom they have a pre-existing clinical relationship (their ``own patients") than when delivering patients with whom they had no prior relationship. OBs' decisions are consistent with receiving greater disutility from their own patients' difficult labors. After a string of difficult labors, OBs are more likely to perform C-sections on their own patients, and this can explain the entire own patient effect. JEL: I11, J16, J44

Also available as NBER Working Paper #22666

Tipping the Scales? Testing for Political Influence on Public Corruption Prosecutions
(with B. Nyhan)
Revisions Requested by the American Law and Economics Review

Political ties and the need to cultivate support for nominations to higher office create a conflict of interest for U.S. attorneys and the prosecutors they supervise in political corruption cases. How severe is this problem? Contrary to previous research, prosecutors do not appear to bring weaker cases against opposition party defendants before elections; we find no measurable difference in conviction rates and some evidence that co-partisans received \emph{less} favorable treatment in plea bargains and sentencing until recently. However, we observe partisan differences in the \emph{timing} of public corruption case filings that we attribute to the career incentives facing prosecutors. Relative to the president's co-partisans, opposition defendants are more likely to be charged immediately before an election than afterward. We find a corresponding difference in case duration, suggesting prosecutors move more quickly to file cases against opposition partisans. These timing differences are associated with greater promotion rates to appointed political office.

Data Appendix and Supplementary Tables