Who Watches the Watchmen? Local News and Police Behavior in the United States (Job Market Paper)
with Nicola Mastrorocco
Abstract: Do the police respond to media coverage of crime? In this paper, we study how a decline in news coverage of local crime affects municipal police departments in the United States. Exogenous variation in local news is from acquisitions of local TV stations by a large broadcast group, Sinclair. To control for other content changes that might be induced by Sinclair but are not municipality-specific, we implement a triple differences-in-differences design that interacts the timing of the acquisitions with an indicator for whether the municipality is covered by the news at baseline, a proxy for exposure to the local news shock. Using a unique dataset of almost 300,000 newscasts, we show that stations that are acquired by Sinclair decrease their coverage of local crime. This matters for policing: after Sinclair enters a media market, covered municipalities experience 10% lower violent crime clearance rates relative to non-covered municipalities. Finally, we provide evidence to suggest that the effect is consistent with a decrease in the salience of crime in the public opinion.
Gender Attitudes in the Judiciary: Evidence from U.S. Circuit Courts
with Elliott Ash and Daniel L. Chen
Abstract: Do gender attitudes influence interactions with female judges in U.S. Circuit Courts? In this paper, we propose a novel judge-specific measure of gender attitudes based on use of gender-stereotyped language in the judge's authored opinions. Exploiting quasi-random assignment of judges to cases and conditioning on judges' characteristics, we validate the measure showing that slanted judges vote more conservatively in gender-related cases. Slant influences interactions with female colleagues: slanted judges are more likely to reverse lower-court decisions if the lower-court judge is a woman than a man, are less likely to assign opinions to female judges, and cite fewer female-authored opinions.
The Challenges of Universal Health Insurance in Developing Countries: Evidence from a Large Scale Randomized Experiment in Indonesia
with Abhijit Banerjee, Amy Finkelstein, Rema Hanna, Ben Olken, and Sudarno Sumarto
R&R American Economic Review
Abstract: To investigate barriers to universal health insurance in developing countries, we designed a randomized experiment involving about 6,000 households in Indonesia who are subject to a government health insurance program with a weakly enforced mandate. Time-limited subsidies increased enrollment and attracted lower-cost enrollees, in part by reducing the strategic timing of enrollment to correspond with health needs. Registration assistance also increased enrollment, but increased attempted enrollment much more, as over half of households who attempted to enroll did not successfully do so. These findings underscore how weak administrative capacity can create important challenges in developing countries for achieving widespread coverage.
Closing Time: the Local Amenities Effect of Prohibition
with Greg Howard
R&R Journal of Economic History
Abstract: How do amenities affect local land values, production, and sorting? We study the question exploiting a large historical policy change: U.S. Alcohol Prohibition in the early 20th century. Comparing same-state early and late adopters of county dry laws in a difference-in-differences design, we find that early Prohibition adoption increased population and farm real estate values. Moreover, we find strong effects on farm productivity consistent with increased investment due to a land price channel. In equilibrium, the amenity change disproportionately attracted immigrants and African-Americans.
Civil Service Reforms: Evidence from U.S. Police Departments
Abstract: Does reducing politicians’ control over public employees’ hiring and firing improve bureaucratic performance? I answer this question exploiting population-based mandates for U.S. municipal police department merit systems in a regression discontinuity design. Merit system mandates improve performance: crime rates are lower in departments operating under a merit system than in departments under a spoils system. Changes in resources or police officers’ characteristics do not drive the effect, but I provide suggestive evidence that the limitations to politicians’ ability to influence police officers are instead important.