CDEP-CGEG Working Paper No. 46

    Coverage: The Crime Report

Are juvenile offenders deterred by the threat of criminal sanctions? Recent research suggests that they are not. This conclusion is based on the finding that criminal behavior decreases only marginally as individuals cross the age of criminal majority, the age at which they are transferred from the juvenile to the more punitive adult criminal justice system. Using a model of criminal capital accumulation, I show theoretically that these small reactions close to the age threshold mask larger responses away from, or in anticipation of, the age threshold. I exploit recent policy variation in the United States to show evidence consistent with this prediction - arrests of 13-16 year olds rise significantly for offenses associated with street gangs, including homicide, robbery, theft, burglary and vandalism offenses, when the age of criminal majority is raised from seventeen to eighteen.  In contrast, and consistent with previous work, I find that arrests of 17 year olds do not increase systematically in response. I provide suggestive evidence that this null effect is likely due to a simultaneous increase in under-reporting of crime by 17 year olds when the age of criminal majority is raised to eighteen. Last, I use a back-of-the-envelope calculation to show that for every 17 year old diverted from adult punishment, jurisdictions bore social costs on the order of $65,000 due to the corresponding increase in juvenile offending. In sum, this paper demonstrates that when criminal capital accumulates, juveniles may respond in anticipation of increases in criminal sanctions, and accounting for these anticipatory responses can overturn the conclusion that harsh sanctions do not deter juvenile crime.


Election by Community Consensus: Effects on Political Selection and Governance

      Coverage: Ideas For India

This paper evaluates the effects of encouraging the selection of local politicians in India via community-based consensus, as opposed to a secret ballot election. While secret ballot elections prevent vote capture by guaranteeing voter anonymity, consensus-based elections may improve welfare by promoting the exchange of information. I find that politicians elected via community consensus are younger and more educated, but lead to worse governance as measured by a fall in local expenditure and regressive targeting of workfare employment. These results are consistent with qualitative evidence that finds that community-based processes are prone to capture by the local elite, and need not improve the quality of elected politicians or governance. 


Bias Pass-Through in Criminal Justice: The Role of Prosecutors and Judges

The Career Impact of First Jobs: Evidence and Labor Market Design Lessons from Randomized Choice Sets (with Jonas Hjort)