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The US Crime Puzzle: A Comparative Perspective on US Crime & Punishment

August 27, 2014 Comments off

The US Crime Puzzle: A Comparative Perspective on US Crime & Punishment
Source: Social Science Research Network

I generate out-of-sample predictions of US crime and incarceration rates from cross-country regressions. Predictors suggested in the literature explain a large part of the international variation, but fail to explain the US. The US incarceration rate is four times higher than predicted, while US crime rates are at best slightly below the prediction. An explanation of this US crime puzzle requires a low crime-punishment elasticity at US levels of punishment, and/or an extraordinarily high US latent crime rate. I derive joint bounds for the two. Drawing on additional country-specific information, I argue that the most plausible explanation combines both elements.

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City Replanning

August 21, 2014 Comments off

City Replanning
Source: Social Science Research Network

In this paper we provide a new defense for one of the most criticized ideas in land use law, that city plans should constitute settled deals about the proper uses of land that should be sticky against subsequent zoning amendments. In the middle of the last century, several prominent scholars argued that courts should find zoning amendments that were contrary to city plans ultra vires. But this idea was largely rejected by courts and scholars alike, with leading figures like Carol Rose, Robert Nelson and Bill Fischel arguing that parcel-specific zoning amendments provide space for the give-and-take of democracy and lead to the efficient amount of development by encouraging negotiations between developers and residents over externalities from new building projects. Their case against plans and in favor of deals suggested that zoning authorities act either as arbiters in land use disputes or as agents for existing residents to encourage negotiated solutions.

We argue, by contrast, that the dismissal of plans was shortsighted and has helped contribute to the excessive strictness of zoning in our richest and most productive cities and regions, which has driven up housing prices excessively and produced outcomes that are economically inefficient and distributively unattractive. In contrast with both planning’s critics and supporters, we argue that plans and comprehensive remappings are best understood as deals. Plans and remappings facilitate trades between city councilmembers who understand the need for new development but refuse to have their neighborhoods be dumping grounds for all new construction. Further, by setting forth what can be constructed as of right, plans reduce the information costs borne by purchasers of land and developers, broadening the market for new construction. We argue that land use law should embrace a version of plans as a procedural tool that packages together policies and sets of zoning changes in a number of neighborhoods simultaneously through procedures that make such packages difficult to unwind.

We conclude by arguing that modern property law scholarship has failed to recognize that real property law is now substantially a public law subject and should be studied using the tools of public law. Leading scholars, most notably Tom Merrill and Henry Smith, have developed sophisticated tools for analyzing the ways in which the common law of property is designed to reduce information costs, which we employ here. But the field has ignored the fact that the common law of property is far less important than it once was as a method for regulating real property ownership and use. Legislatures and administrative agencies at a variety of levels determine most of the rules governing how real property is used and purchased. In order to understand how today’s property law increases or reduces the information costs facing owners, users, potential purchasers and third-parties to property, the field must make an “institutional turn,” studying the likely effects on policy of different institutional arrangements and procedures.

Networks of Military Alliances, Wars, and International Trade

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Networks of Military Alliances, Wars, and International Trade
Source: Social Science Research Network

We investigate the role of networks of military alliances in preventing or encouraging wars between groups of countries. A country is vulnerable to attack if some allied group of countries can defeat the defending country and its (remaining) allies based on their collective military strengths. We show that there do not exist any networks which contain no vulnerable countries and that are stable against the pairwise addition of a new alliance as well as against the unilateral deletion of any existing alliance. We then show that economic benefits from international trade provide incentives to form alliances in ways that restore stability and prevent wars, both by increasing the density of alliances so that countries are less vulnerable and by removing the incentives of countries to attack their allies. In closing, we examine historical data on interstate wars and trade, noting that a dramatic (more than ten-fold) drop in the rate of interstate wars since 1950 is paralleled by the advent of nuclear weapons and an unprecedented growth in trade over the same period, matched with a similar densification and stabilization of alliances, consistent with the model.

Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA

August 19, 2014 Comments off

Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA
Source: Social Science Research Network

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) provides tax credits and subsidies for the purchase of qualifying health insurance plans on state-run insurance exchanges. Contrary to expectations, many states are refusing or otherwise failing to create such exchanges. An Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rule purports to extend these tax credits and subsidies to the purchase of health insurance in federal exchanges created in states without exchanges of their own. This rule lacks statutory authority. The text, structure, and history of the Act show that tax credits and subsidies are not available in federally run exchanges. The IRS rule is contrary to congressional intent and cannot be justified on other legal grounds. Because the granting of tax credits can trigger the imposition of fines on millions of individuals and employers, the IRS rule is likely to be challenged in court.

What Happens Before? A Field Experiment Exploring How Pay and Representation Differentially Shape Bias on the Pathway into Organizations

August 13, 2014 Comments off

What Happens Before? A Field Experiment Exploring How Pay and Representation Differentially Shape Bias on the Pathway into Organizations
Source: Social Science Research Network

Little is known about how discrimination against women and minorities manifests before individuals formally apply to organizations or how it varies within and between organizations. We address this knowledge gap through an audit study in academia of over 6,500 professors at top U.S. universities drawn from 89 disciplines and 259 institutions. We hypothesized that discrimination would appear at the informal “pathway” preceding entry to academia and would vary by discipline and university as a function of faculty representation and pay. In our experiment, professors were contacted by fictional prospective students seeking to discuss research opportunities before applying to a doctoral program. Students’ names were randomly assigned to signal gender and race, but messages were otherwise identical. Faculty ignored requests from women and minorities at a higher rate than requests from Caucasian males, particularly in higher-paying disciplines and private institutions. Counterintuitively, the representation of women and minorities and discrimination were uncorrelated.

Government Surveillance and Internet Search Behavior

August 1, 2014 Comments off

Government Surveillance and Internet Search Behavior
Source: Social Science Research Network

This paper uses data from Google Trends on search terms from before and after the surveillance revelations of June 2013 to analyze whether Google users’ search behavior shifted as a result of an exogenous shock in information about how closely their internet searches were being monitored by the U. S. government. We use data from Google Trends on search volume for 282 search terms across eleven different countries. These search terms were independently rated for their degree of privacy-sensitivity along multiple dimensions. Using panel data, our result suggest that cross-nationally, users were less likely to search using search terms that they believed might get them in trouble with the U. S. government. In the U. S., this was the main subset of search terms that were affected. However, internationally there was also a drop in traffic for search terms that were rated as personally sensitive. These results have implications for policy makers in terms of understanding the actual effects on search behavior of disclosures relating to the scale of government surveillance on the Internet and their potential effects on international competitiveness.

Decriminalizing Indoor Prostitution: Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health

August 1, 2014 Comments off

Decriminalizing Indoor Prostitution: Implications for Sexual Violence and Public Health
Source: Social Science Research Network/National Bureau of Economic Research

Most governments in the world including the United States prohibit prostitution. Given these types of laws rarely change and are fairly uniform across regions, our knowledge about the impact of decriminalizing sex work is largely conjectural. We exploit the fact that a Rhode Island District Court judge unexpectedly decriminalized indoor prostitution in 2003 to provide the first causal estimates of the impact of decriminalization on the composition of the sex market, rape offenses, and sexually transmitted infection outcomes. Not surprisingly, we find that decriminalization increased the size of the indoor market. However, we also find that decriminalization caused both forcible rape offenses and gonorrhea incidence to decline for the overall population. Our synthetic control model finds 824 fewer reported rape offenses (31 percent decrease) and 1,035 fewer cases of female gonorrhea (39 percent decrease) from 2004 to 2009.

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