United States

  • July 23, 2015
    We leverage the institutional features of American courts to evaluate the importance of whistleblowers in hierarchical oversight. Drawing on a formal theory of signaling in the judicial hierarchy, we examine the role of whistleblowing dissents in triggering en banc review of three-judge panels by full circuits of the Courts of Appeals. The theory generates predictions about how dissent interacts with judicial preferences to influence circuits' review and reversal decisions, which we test using original and existing data. First, we show that judges who dissent counter to their preferences are more likely to see their dissents lead to review and reversal. Second, we show that dissents are most influential when the likelihood of non-compliance by a three-judge panel is highest. Our results underscore the importance of dissent in the judicial hierarchy and illustrate how judicial whistleblowers can help appellate courts target the most important cases for review.
  • June 22, 2015
    How can we assess relative bargaining power within the Supreme Court? Justices cast two votes in every case, one during the initial conference and one on the final merits of the case. Between these two votes, a justice is assigned to draft the majority opinion. We argue that vote switching can be used to detect the power of opinion authors over opinion content. Bargaining models make different predictions for opinion content and therefore for when other justices in the initial majority should be more or less likely to defect from initial positions. We derive hypotheses for how opinion authorship should affect vote switching and find that authorship has striking effects on switching. Authors thus have disproportionate influence and by extension so do chief justices, who make most assignments. This evidence is compatible with only the “author influence” class of bargaining models, with particular support for one model within this class.
  • April 22, 2015
    Excerpt: "According to the news media, 2014 was the year that the GOP “Establishment” finally pulled Republicans back from the right-wing brink. Pragmatism, it seemed, had finally triumphed over extremism in primary and general election contests that The New York Times called “proxy wars for the overall direction of the Republican Party.” There’s just one problem with this dominant narrative. It’s wrong. The GOP isn’t moving back to the center.
  • March 30, 2015
    Excerpt: Over the past decade, a data collection procedure called the group or gang audit has been developed for use in focused deterrence policing and violence prevention initiatives. Group audits extract this type of experiential, ―on the ground intelligence through focus-group style working sessions with law enforcement and other gang ―experts, such as case workers or members of community organizations. The information obtained through the audit lends itself to use in social network analysis, which is itself particularly useful for linking individual stores of knowledge in order to examine patterns of the whole… This chapter describes the audit process, how it relates to focused-deterrence strategies and social network analysis, and in what ways the group audit, in conjunction with social network analysis, can support and strengthen violence reduction initiatives. We begin by briefly reviewing the audit process, paying particular attention to systematic methods of relational data gathering and analysis. We then summarize the findings from audits in New Haven and demonstrate how the analysis of the networks among violent groups can address some definitional problems surrounding groups and gangs, as well as provide unique insight into groups and their relationships.
  • March 30, 2015
    Why does the relationship between income and partisanship vary across U.S. regions? Some answers to this question have focused on economic context (in poorer environments, economics is more salient), whereas others have focused on racial context (in racially diverse areas, richer voters oppose the party favoring redistribution). Using 73 million geocoded registration records and 185,000 geocoded precinct returns, we examine income-based voting across local areas. We show that the political geography of income-based voting is inextricably tied to racial context, and only marginally explained by economic context. Within homogeneously nonblack localities, contextual income has minimal bearing on the income-party relationship. The correlation between income and partisanship is strong in heavily black areas of the Old South and other areas with a history of racialized poverty, but weaker elsewhere, including in urbanized areas of the South. The results demonstrate that the geography of income-based voting is inseparable from racial context.
  • March 30, 2015
    As a key element of their strategy, recent Presidential campaigns have recruited thousands of workers to engage in direct voter contact. We conceive of this strategy as a principal-agent problem. Workers engaged in direct contact are intermediaries between candidates and voters, but they may be ill-suited to convey messages to general-election audiences. By analyzing a survey of workers fielded in partnership with the 2012 Obama campaign, we show that in the context of the campaign widely considered most adept at direct contact, individuals who were interacting with swing voters on the campaign’s behalf were demographically unrepresentative, ideologically extreme, cared about atypical issues, and misunderstood the voters’ priorities. We find little evidence that the campaign was able to use strategies of agent control to mitigate its principal-agent problem. We question whether individuals typically willing to be volunteer surrogates are productive agents for a strategic campaign.
  • March 27, 2015
    A large literature argues that the committee assignment process plays an important role in shaping legislative politics because some committees provide legislators with substantial benefits. However, evaluating the degree to which legislators benefit from winning their preferred assignments has been challenging with existing data. This paper sheds light on the benefits legislators accrue from winning their preferred committee assignments by exploiting rules in Arkansas’ state legislature, where legislators select their own committee assignments in a randomized order. The natural experiment indicates that legislators reap at most limited rewards from winning their preferred assignments. These results potentially raise questions about the robustness of widely held assumptions in literatures on party discipline and legislative organization.
  • March 26, 2015
    Despite the large increases in economic inequality since 1970, American survey respondents exhibit no increase in support for redistribution, in contrast to the predictions from standard theories of redistributive preferences. We replicate these results but further demonstrate substantial heterogeneity by demographic groups. In particular, the two groups who have most moved against income redistribution are the elderly and African-Americans, two groups relatively more reliant on it. We find little evidence that these subgroup trends are explained by relative economic gains or growing cultural conservatism, two common explanations. We further show that the elderly trend is uniquely American, at least relative to other developed countries with comparable survey data. One story consistent with the data on elderly trends is that they worry that redistribution will come at their expense, in particular via cuts to Medicare. We find that the elderly have grown increasingly opposed to government provision of health insurance and that controlling for this tendency explains roughly half of their declining relative support of redistribution. For blacks, controlling for their declining support of race-targeted aid explains a large portion of their differential decline in redistributive preferences (raising the question of why support for race-targeted aid has fallen during a period when black income catch-up to whites has stalled).
  • 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."