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“Do Privately Owned Prisons Increase Incarceration Rates?” (R&R at Journal of Public Economics)

“How Private Prisons Affect Incarceration Likelihood” (Job Market Paper)

  • Abstract: This paper analyzes how private prisons affect the likelihood an individual receives a prison sentence over probation. I test two plausible mechanisms by which private prisons may influence a judge’s decision: through corruption-induced “over-incarceration” or by lifting public prison capacity constraints. These mechanisms are modeled through a four-stage, three-agent, incomplete information game with a lobbying-susceptible judicial authority. Using data on 600,000 federal trials and an instrumental variables control function approach, this paper finds evidence consistent with the over-incarceration mechanism, but not the capacity mechanism. In states with high corruption levels, an additional private prison increases incarceration likelihood by 0.4%. This effect varies by crime type and demographic subgroup, expanding to 2.3% for public order crimes, 1.3% for women, and 1.2% for college graduates. Groups with lower initial levels of incarceration tend to see larger increases. Effects also depend on private prison size and cannot be explained by crime type compositional changes.


“The Effect of Partisanship and Political Advertising on Thanksgiving Dinner” (R&R at Science)

  • Abstract: Research on growing American political polarization and antipathy primarily studies public institutions and political processes, ignoring private effects including strained family ties. Using smartphone-tracking data and precinct-level voting, we show that Thanksgiving dinners attended by opposing-party precinct residents were 20-40 minutes shorter than same-party dinners. This decline from a mean of 233 minutes survives extensive spatial and demographic controls. Time loss in 2016 triples for travelers from media markets with heavy political advertising—an effect not observed in 2015—implying a relationship to election-related behavior. Effects appear asymmetric: while fewer Democratic-precinct residents traveled in 2016 than 2015, political differences shortened Thanksgiving dinners more among Republican-precinct residents. An aggregate 23 million person-hours of cross-partisan Thanksgiving discourse were lost in 2016 to ad-related partisan effects.


“Electoral Consequences of Affordable Care Act-Related Insurance Coverage Changes”

  • Abstract: Abstract issues around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act influenced political discourse and electoral outcomes, but few studies investigate electoral effects from the actual mechanisms of the policy. I build a theoretic framework for insurance and uninsurance decision-making before and after the policy, with the interaction of health beliefs and wealth levels determining welfare changes. The framework is tested using highly spatially disaggregated insurance coverage rates before and after the policy’s implementation and a specially-collected set of precinct-level presidential election results. Overall effects and propensity score-matched sets of geographies across Medicaid expansion discontinuities are considered. Impacts on voting from Medicaid coverage increases depended heavily on income levels, with poorer areas of coverage gain swinging toward Clinton and richer areas toward Trump, an effect consistent with initial insurance non-coverage theory. Net effects from coverage gains were comparable in size to effects from local unemployment rate changes.


“The Partisan Tithe: Revealed Preferences for Homogeneity in Church Selection”


  • EconS 302: Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory (Developed for online) — Spring 2017
  • EconS 320: Money and Banking — Fall 2014, Spring 2015