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California’s New Vagrancy Laws: The Growing Enactment and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State

April 7, 2015 Comments off

California’s New Vagrancy Laws: The Growing Enactment and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State
Source: Social Science Research Network

Vagrancy laws conjure up a distant past when authorities punished people without a home or permanent residence. Whether the objects of pity or scorn, vagrants could be cited or jailed under laws selectively enforced against anyone deemed undesirable. Although such laws have generally been struck down by courts as unconstitutionally vague, today’s “vagrants” are homeless people, who face growing harassment and punishment for their presence in public.

More than one in five homeless people in the country lives in California, and two-thirds are unsheltered. The state legislature has done little to respond to this widespread problem, forcing municipal governments to address homelessness with local laws and resources. Cities have responded by enacting and enforcing new vagrancy laws — a wide range of municipal codes that target or disproportionately impact homeless people.

Through extensive archival research and case studies of several cities, the report presents detailed evidence of the growing enactment and enforcement of municipal anti-homeless laws in recent decades as cities engage in a race to the bottom to push out homeless people. It concludes with a call for a state-level solution to end the expensive and inhumane treatment of some of California’s most vulnerable residents.

HarvardX and MITx: Two Years of Open Online Courses Fall 2012-Summer 2014

April 3, 2015 Comments off

HarvardX and MITx: Two Years of Open Online Courses Fall 2012-Summer 2014
Source: Social Science Research Network

What happens when well-known universities offer online courses, assessments, and certificates of completion for free? Early descriptions of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have emphasized large enrollments, low certification rates, and highly educated registrants. We use data from two years and 68 open online courses offered by Harvard University (via HarvardX) and MIT (via MITx) to broaden the scope of answers to this question. We describe trends over this two-year span, depict participant intent using comprehensive survey instruments, and chart course participation pathways using network analysis. We find that overall participation in our MOOCs remains substantial and that the average growth has been steady. We explore how diverse audiences — including explorers, teachers-as-learners, and residential students — provide opportunities to advance the principles on which HarvardX and MITx were founded: access, research, and residential education.

Buy or Bite?

March 21, 2015 Comments off

Buy or Bite?
Source: Social Science Research Network

Why is there so much violence in the vampire world? In brief, our thesis is that most vampire violence is the result of legal failure: the lack of a legalized market for the purchase and sale of blood. This short essay is organized as follows: in part one we analyze the market for blood in the vampire world and explain the logic of vampire violence. Next, in part two, we propose a simple method for reducing such vampire violence. Simply put, we propose giving vampires a meaningful choice: “buy” instead of “bite.” That is, we propose a legal market in which vampires would have the choice to buy blood through voluntary exchange instead of taking it by force. Lastly, in part three, we explain the absence of legal markets in the vampire world, examine the causes of this epic legal failure, and refute the standard arguments against the commodification of blood.

The Lost Generation of the Great Recession

March 20, 2015 Comments off

The Lost Generation of the Great Recession
Source: Social Science Research Network

This paper analyzes the effects of the Great Recession on different generations. While older generations have suffered the largest decline in wealth due to the collapse in asset prices, younger generations have suffered the largest decline in labor income. Potentially, the young may benefit from the purchase of cheaper assets, especially if they have access to credit. To analyze the impact of these channels, I construct an overlapping generations model with borrowing constraints in which households choose a portfolio over risky and risk-free assets. Shocks to labor efficiency and uncertainty regarding the return on risky assets generate a recession with a drop in asset prices and cross-sectional changes in risky investment that are consistent with the recent recession. Overall, the young suffer the largest welfare losses, equivalent to an 8 percent reduction in lifetime consumption.

Minding the Identity Gaps

March 16, 2015 Comments off

Minding the Identity Gaps
Source: Social Science Research Network

In inclusion circles, the issue of digital identity tends to be dominated by the perspectives of law enforcement (anti-money laundering and – terrorist financing), legal compliance (how long records need to be kept), and technological implementation choices (phones or cards, biometric or not). But what needs to be at the center is how to manage the competing interests of providers and their clients over customer information. We examine three distinct trust gaps that define the core problem of digital identities: the confidence – or security – with which identities can be asserted and confirmed, the control – or privacy – with which personal information associated with one´s identity can be revealed and distributed, and the relevance and accuracy of the inferences – or reputations – that are drawn from people´ personal information and the history of interactions.

Insider Trading in Commodities Markets

March 5, 2015 Comments off

Insider Trading in Commodities Markets
Source: Social Science Research Network

In securities markets, insider trading is a crime. In commodities, insider trading is almost completely legal. This divergent treatment has long been accepted as appropriate, given perceived differences between the markets. For example, it has been thought that futures traders are sophisticated enough to neither need nor want protections from informed traders, and that the assets traded – corn, copper – do not lend themselves to insider trading anyway.

This Article disagrees, showing that purported differences between these two markets do not withstand serious scrutiny, and that insider trading is harmful in the same ways in both markets and should be governed by the same restrictions. Understanding securities and commodities markets to be peer financial markets permits for the first time a serious dialogue between scholars of both fields, and this Article takes the first steps to applying theories from the securities literature to commodities markets and holding those theories up for verification or falsification against new data from commodities markets.

The Impact of Right to Carry Laws and the National Research Council Report: The Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy

March 3, 2015 Comments off

The Impact of Right to Carry Laws and the NRC Report: The Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy
Source: Social Science Research Network

For over a decade, there has been a spirited academic debate over the impact on crime of laws that grant citizens the presumptive right to carry concealed handguns in public – so-called right-to-carry (RTC) laws. In 2004, the National Research Council (NRC) offered a critical evaluation of the “More Guns, Less Crime” hypothesis using county-level crime data for the period 1977-2000. 15 of the 16 academic members of the NRC panel essentially concluded that the existing research was inadequate to conclude that RTC laws increased or decreased crime. One member of the panel thought the NRC’s panel data regressions showed that RTC laws decreased murder, but the other 15 responded by saying that “the scientific evidence does not support” that position.

We evaluate the NRC evidence, and improve and expand on the report’s county data analysis by analyzing an additional six years of county data as well as state panel data for the period 1979-2010. We also present evidence using both a more plausible version of the Lott and Mustard specification, as well as our own preferred specification (which, unlike the Lott and Mustard model presented in the NRC report, does control for rates of incarceration and police). While we have considerable sympathy with the NRC’s majority view about the difficulty of drawing conclusions from simple panel data models and re-affirm its finding that the conclusion of the dissenting panel member that RTC laws reduce murder has no statistical support, we disagree with the NRC report’s judgment on one methodological point: the NRC report states that cluster adjustments to correct for serial correlation are not needed in these panel data regressions, but our randomization tests show that without such adjustments the Type 1 error soars to 22-73 percent.

Our paper highlights some important questions to consider when using panel data methods to resolve questions of law and policy effectiveness. We buttress the NRC’s cautious conclusion regarding the effects of RTC laws by showing how sensitive the estimated impact of RTC laws is to different data periods, the use of state versus county data, particular specifications (especially the Lott-Mustard inclusion of 36 highly collinear demographic variables), and the decision to control for state trends.
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