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.
Subsidies and the Dynamics of Selection: Experimental Evidence from Indonesia's National Health Insurance
with Abhijit Banerjee, Amy Finkelstein, Rema Hanna, Ben Olken, and Sudarno Sumarto
R&R American Economic Review
Abstract: How can developing countries increase health insurance? We experimentally assessed three approaches that simple theory suggests could increase coverage and potentially reduce adverse selection: temporary price subsidies, registration assistance, and information. Temporary subsidies attracted lower-cost enrollees, in part by reducing strategic coverage timing. While subsidies were active, coverage increased more than eightfold, at no higher unit cost to the government; after subsidies ended, coverage remained twice as high, again at no higher cost. However, subsidies are not sufficient to achieve universal coverage: the most intensive intervention – a full one-year subsidy combined with registration assistance – resulted in only 30 percent enrollment.
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.