Research

Silenced: Consequences of the Nuisance Property Ordinances (job market paper)

Presentations:
2021: The Society of Labor Economists (SOLE), The Population Association of America (PAA), Association for Mentoring and Inclusion in Economics (AMIE), Western Economic Association International (WEIA)
2020: The Southern Economic Association (SEA), UCI Labor-Public

Extended Abstract

Nuisance property ordinances label a property as a nuisance, and violations are filed against landlords when the police respond to a home a set number of times within a certain period (e.g., three times in six months). These ordinances penalize landlords who do not abate the nuisance with fines and criminal charges. Many landlords respond by evicting the tenant, refusing to renew their lease, or instructing tenants not to call 911. In this paper, I examine the impact of applying these policies to domestic violence. Using individual- and agency-level data, I exploit time variation in the enactment of nuisance ordinances across 40 major MSAs to identify the impacts of these ordinances on the rate at which assault victimization is reported to police. I find that nuisance ordinances decrease the rate at which assaults that happen inside the home are reported, and those living in rental units are particularly affected by these ordinances. I also find evidence that these nuisances are followed by a significant increase in the number of reported intimate partner homicides. Results indicate these policies do not affect reporting rates for crimes that are not associated with a property and do not affect non-intimate partner homicide rates. These findings are consistent between models with controls for individual, policy, and economic variables and alternative estimation strategies proposed by the recent literature on the internal validity of the two-way fixed effect models with staggered rollout and dynamic or heterogenous treatment effects.


Specialization in Criminal Courts: Evaluating Impact of Domestic Violence Courts in Nashville, TN.
(joint with Emily Owens & Kerri Raissian, under review)

Presentations (by me or co-author):
2021: American Law and Economics Association (ALEA) Annual Meeting, Chicago/LSE, Chicago Crime Lab, The Society of Economics of the Household (SEHO)
2020: NBER SI, APPAM (2020), The Southern Economic Association (SEA)
2019: UCI Law Initiative to End Family Violence

Abstract

Local governments increasingly rely on “specialized” or “problem solving” courts as a way to improve the provision of criminal justice. Using administrative data on misdemeanor DV cases between 2000 and 2006, we exploit the arbitrary courtroom assignment of low-income defendants to evaluate the social impact of specialized domestic violence courts in the General Sessions Court of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. We find that, compared to traditional court, defendants assigned to specialized court are less likely to be convicted, but no more likely to be charged with a future crime 1 to 3 years later. This offender-focused measure of recidivism masks a potentially important increase in safety. Police records suggest that victims in cases assigned to specialized court are less likely to be involved in a future domestic incident. Conditional on police involvement, these same victims appear to be more willing to cooperate with police and prosecutors.

Policing and Prosecuting Drug Offenses in Nashville: Drug-Free School Zones
(joint with Yoonjung Kim & Jaclyn Rosenquist)

Presentations (by me or co-author):
2021: 15th North American Meeting of the Urban Economics Association (UEA)

Abstract

Drug free school zones (DFSZs) increase penalties for drug crimes committed near schools or places where children gather. In this study, we utilize a unique data set to estimate the causal effect of DFSZ enhancements on court sentencing outcomes in Nashville, TN. We exploit the variation of arrestees’ location and use the instrumental variable two-stage least squares estimator to study the causal effect of being charged with the DFSZ enhancement. Our estimates suggest that being charged with the DFSZ enhancement increases the likelihood of an individual being found guilty by 11 percentage points and increases the sentence length by roughly 1 year. Notably, we find that enhancement charges against eligible offenders are more likely to be applied to Black arrestees than White arrestees, leading to lasting impacts across races in sentencing outcomes..

The Church Says: “It’s a Sin! A Sin to God Above. A Public Sin!”: Policing Sex Work in Nashville, TN

Presentations:
2019: The Southern Economic Association (SEA), All-California Labor Economics Conference,  UCI Labor-Public

Extended Abstract

I investigate the extent to which gender and racial discrimination is a factor in interactions between sex workers and the criminal justice system. Tennessee has a unique prostitution provision that raises the penalty of prostituting by one level (from class B misdemeanor to class A) if it happens within 100 feet of a church or 1.5 miles of a K-12 school. Using individual-level Nashville Metro Police Department data and Davidson County court records on more than 5,000 sex work cases, this study conducts three separate measurement strategies to identify three sources of bias:
(1) Police interactions and the risk of being arrested, (2) Racial disparities in prosecutors’ discretion, and (3) In-group bias in court decisions.
In the first part of this paper, I address the potential selection bias that might exist in any administrative data by measuring the population at risk of being arrested using the benchmark exercise. This analysis compares the racial distribution of arrested individuals to the racial distribution of various benchmarks of at risk population that could be potentially arrested. With the assumption that police are not strategic in stopping and arresting behavior, results suggest that black male sex workers are disproportionately arrested.
Empowered by prosecutorial discretion, prosecutors have the authority to decide whether to charge a defendant, which charges to file, and which plea deal to offer. Therefore, they could play a major role in amplifying the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The specific cutoffs for prostitution near a church or school allow me to evaluate whether black and white individuals have a different distance decision rule applied to them. Specifically, I identify whether or not enhanced prostitution charges are being disproportionately used in prosecution of black sex workers relative to white sex workers in Davidson County. In this stage, I find no evidence of potential bias against black individuals.
Finally, I evaluate whether in-group bias exists in judicial decision making. Exploiting random assignment of cases to racially diverse judges, I measure the variation in treatment severity between observationally identical black and white sex workers facing the same judge (who is black or white). Results show that same-race sex workers-judge assignment has a negative and statistically significant effect of incarceration and sentence length. Black (white) sex workers who are randomly assigned to black (white) judges are 30 percent less likely to receive jail sentences.

Publication:

How Is the Worker’s Weekly Hour Related To Wage Over The Life Cycle? The U.S. evidence. (with Madhu S. Mohanty)
Applied Economics, 2017, 49, issue 26, p. 2532-2544.

Abstract

The current study estimates the relationship between weekly hours and weekly wage over the life cycle of a representative sample of workers. Recognizing the endogeneity of these two variables, the study estimates both equations in a simultaneous equations framework and demonstrates that the relationship between weekly hours and weekly wage is not uniform over the worker’s life cycle. These two variables are negatively related when the workers are young and have a positive relationship when they are matured adults. This conclusion remains valid for both men and women. Our robustness check further confirms that workers respond to wage increases differently at different stages of their working career. This has interesting policy implications. Any policy to influence the worker’s hours decision through wage incentive must consider the stage of his/her working career.