United States

  • March 13, 2015
    Previous research finds that House majority members and members in the president's party garner additional federal spending in their districts. Using federal spending data in individual districts, we implement two research designs to distinguish elected officials enacting policies that benefit like-minded voters—the party in the electorate—from those that benefit same-party elected officials—the party in government. We find robust evidence that presidential partisanship is associated with large differences in spending correlated with voter preferences, but little evidence that presidents favor areas represented by their party in the House. By contrast, control of the House is associated with differences in spending by voter preferences and with modest increases in spending in districts held by members of the majority. These findings have important implications for understanding presidential influence, as well as the role of parties in the House and in coordinating between elected branches.
  • February 24, 2015
    Recent elections have witnessed substantial debate regarding the degree to which state governments facilitate access to the polls. Despite this newfound interest, however, many of the major reforms aimed at increasing voting convenience (i.e., early voting and no-excuse absentee voting) were implemented over the past four decades. Although numerous studies examine their consequences (on turnout, the composition of the electorate, and/or electoral outcomes), we know significantly less about the factors leading to the initial adoption of these policies. We attempt to provide insights into such motivations using event history analysis to identify the impact of political and demographic considerations, as well as diffusion mechanisms, on which states opted for easier ballot access. We find that adoption responded to some factors signaling the necessity of greater voting convenience in the state, and that partisanship influenced the enactment of early voting but not no-excuse absentee voting procedures.
  • December 18, 2014
    How does America's high rate of incarceration shape political participation? Few studies have examined the direct effects of incarceration on patterns of political engagement. Answering this question is particularly relevant for the 93% of formerly incarcerated individuals who are eligible to vote. Drawing on new administrative data from Connecticut, we present evidence from a field experiment showing that a simple informational outreach campaign to released felons can recover a large proportion of the reduction in participation observed following incarceration. The treatment effect estimates imply that efforts to reintegrate released felons into the political process can substantially reduce the participatory consequences of incarceration.
  • December 1, 2014
    Nearly all studies that seek to uncover the effects of military service on the individual are plagued with the self-selection bias that comes with studying the all-volunteer force. To solve this problem, this paper takes advantage of the natural experiment afforded by the suspension of the French National Service program to produce unbiased causal analyses of the effect of national service on a range of civic engagement measures. Results generated using Instrumental Variables estimation indicate that there is little difference in individual-level civic engagement between service participants and their non-serving peers. However, when potential mediators are taken into account, the ensuing results imply that the substantial increase in the likelihood of having children associated with national service participation has a suppressive effect on service participants’ overall level of civic engagement.
  • November 12, 2014
    Excerpt: "The day the last anti-lynching bill in the 1940s was discarded and defeated was the day Michael Brown became inevitable, whether in Ferguson or Poughkeepsie. Time and time again, our nation has failed to protect black life, whether it was in the Dred Scott decision where the court said blacks have no rights that the state was bound to protect or in the failure of over a hundred anti-lynching bills."
  • September 6, 2014
    When do government policies induce responsive political participation? This study tests two hypotheses in the context of military draft policies. First, policy-induced risk motivates political participation. Second, contextual-level moderators, such as local events that make risk particularly salient, may intensify the effect of risk on participation. I use the random assignment of induction priority in the Vietnam draft lotteries to measure the effect of a son’s draft risk on the voter turnout of his parents in the 1972 presidential election. I find higher rates of turnout among parents of men with “losing” draft lottery numbers. Among parents from towns with at least one prior war casualty, I find a 7 to 9 percentage point effect of a son’s draft risk on his parents’ turnout. The local casualty contextual-level moderator is theorized to operate through the mechanism of an availability heuristic, whereby parents from towns with casualties could more readily imagine the adverse consequences of draft risk.
  • October 28, 2014
    This report gathers new evidence to show that middle-class weakness and stagnant wage growth are holding the economy back. We use the financial statements, known as 10-Ks—the annual report required by the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC—of the top 100 retailers in America and words of some of Wall Street’s top economists to underscore the point.
  • October 20, 2014
    Damaging relationships between disadvantaged communities and the police are not inevitable. Studies of policing and the procedures used in the justice system find that police gain legitimacy when their interactions with community members are perceived as fair.
  • January 30, 2014
    In some urban neighborhoods, encounters with police have become one of the primary points of contact between disadvantaged citizens and their government. Yet extant scholarship has only just begun to explore how criminal justice interventions help to shape the political lives of the urban poor. In this article, we ask: What are the consequences of the increased use of stop-and-frisks (Terry stops) in disadvantaged neighborhoods for communities’ engagement with the state? Relying on a novel measure of local citizen engagement (311 calls for service) and more than one million police stops, we find that it is not concentrated police surveillance per se that matters but, rather, the character of police contact. The concentration of police stops overall is associated with higher levels of community engagement, while at the same time, a high degree of stops that feature searches or the use of force, especially when they do not result in an arrest, have a chilling effect on neighborhood-level outreach to local government. Our article marks a first step toward understanding what concentrated policing means for the democratic life and political agency of American communities.
  • October 1, 2014
    This issue brief was prepared by Rachel Grob of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Mark Schlesinger of Yale University, Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation and Lori Grubstein of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
  • September 29, 2014
    Most American gun owners have their firearms for a simple reason: protection. However, these estimates are based on nationally representative samples that are likely to undersample residents of marginalized urban communities where rates of violent victimization, and presumably the need for personal protection, are much higher than the country as a whole. Yet, we know very little about the motivations for gun acquisition within high-crime neighborhoods, especially among “hidden” sub-populations within these communities such as active criminal offenders. Drawing on past work linking neighborhood violence to legal cynicism, and using data gathered by the Chicago Gun Project (CGP), I employ measures of police legitimacy to explore the effect of distrust of legal agents on protective gun ownership among active offenders in Chicago. These data confirm that lower levels of police legitimacy are significantly related to a higher probability of acquiring a firearm for protection. I also consider the ways that gang membership, legal changes in Chicago, and gun behaviors are related to protective gun ownership.
  • August 8, 2014
    We use an original dataset of death penalty decisions on the Courts of Appeals to evaluate how the institutions of multimember appellate courts, dissent, and discretionary higher-court review interact to increase legal consistency in the federal judicial hierarchy. First, beginning with three-judge panels, we show the existence of ideological diversity on a panel—and the potential for dissent—plays a significant role in judicial decision making. Second, because of the relationship between panel composition and panel outcomes, considering only the incidence of dissents dramatically underestimates the influence of the institution of dissent—judges dissent much less frequently than they would in the absence of this relationship. Third, this rarity of dissent means they are informative: when judges do dissent, they influence en banc review in a manner consistent with the preferences of full circuits. Taken together, these results have important implications for assessing legal consistency in a vast and diverse judicial hierarchy.