NBER Working Papers and Publications
|May 2017||Racial Bias in Bail Decisions|
with David Arnold, Will Dobbie: w23421
This paper develops a new test for identifying racial bias in the context of bail decisions – a high-stakes setting with large disparities between white and black defendants. We motivate our analysis using Becker's (1957) model of racial bias, which predicts that rates of pre-trial misconduct will be identical for marginal white and marginal black defendants if bail judges are racially unbiased. In contrast, marginal white defendants will have a higher probability of misconduct than marginal black defendants if bail judges are racially biased against blacks. To test the model, we develop a new estimator that uses the release tendencies of quasi-randomly assigned bail judges to identify the relevant race-specific misconduct rates. Estimates from Miami and Philadelphia show that bail judges ...
|August 2016||The Effects of Pre-Trial Detention on Conviction, Future Crime, and Employment: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges|
with Will Dobbie, Jacob Goldin: w22511
Over 20 percent of prison and jail inmates in the United States are currently awaiting trial, but little is known about the impact of pre-trial detention on defendants. This paper uses the detention tendencies of quasi-randomly assigned bail judges to estimate the causal effects of pre-trial detention on subsequent defendant outcomes. Using data from administrative court and tax records, we find that being detained before trial significantly increases the probability of a conviction, primarily through an increase in guilty pleas. Pre-trial detention has no detectable effect on future crime, but decreases pre-trial crime and failures to appear in court. We also find suggestive evidence that pre-trial detention decreases formal sector employment and the receipt of employment- and tax-relate...
|March 2015||Consumer Bankruptcy and Financial Health|
with Will Dobbie, Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham: w21032
This paper estimates the effect of Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection on post-filing financial outcomes using a new dataset linking bankruptcy filings to credit bureau records. Our empirical strategy uses the leniency of randomly-assigned judges as an instrument for Chapter 13 protection. Over the first five post-filing years, we find that Chapter 13 protection decreases an index measuring adverse financial events such as civil judgments and repossessions by 0.316 standard deviations, increases the probability of being a homeowner by 13.2 percentage points, and increases credit scores by 14.9 points. Chapter 13 protection has little impact on open unsecured debt, but decreases the amount of debt in collections by $1,315.