Research

PUBLICATIONS

The Effects of Alcohol on the Consumption of Hard Drugs: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997. Health Economics (April 2015), Vol. 24(4)
Online Appendix
[Pre-publication version paper]

Abstract:
This paper estimates the effect of alcohol use on consumption of hard drugs using the exogenous decrease in the cost of accessing alcohol that occurs when individuals reach the minimum legal drinking age. Using a regression discontinuity design and the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997, I find that all measures of alcohol consumption, when alcohol initiation increase discontinuously at age 21. I also find evidence that consumption of hard drugs decreased by 1.5 to 2 percentage points and the probability of initiating the use of hard drugs decreased by 1 percentage point at age 21, while the intensity of use among users remained unchanged. These estimates are robust to a variety of specifications and also remain robust across subsamples.

Is There a Stepping Stone Effect in Drug Use? Separating State Dependence from Unobserved Heterogeneity Within and Across Illicit Drugs . Journal of Econometrics (January 2015) Vol 184(1). Pp.193-207
Online Appendix
[Pre-publication version paper]

Abstract
Empirically, teenagers who use soft drugs are more likely to use hard drugs in the future. This pattern can be explained by a causal effect (i.e., state dependence between drugs or stepping-stone effects) or by unobserved characteristics that make people more likely to use both soft and hard drugs (i.e., correlated unobserved heterogeneity). I estimate a dynamic discrete choice model of alcohol, marijuana, and hard drug use over multiple years, and separately identify the contributions of state dependence (within and between drugs) and unobserved heterogeneity. I find statistically significant "stepping-stone" effects from softer to harder drugs, and conclude that alcohol, marijuana and hard drugs are complements in utility.

Do Nighttime Driving Restrictions Reduce Criminal Participation Among Teenagers? Evidence from Graduated Driver Licensing (joint work with Daniel Litwok, Abt Associates). Featured Article.  Journal of Policy Analysis and Management (Spring 2016) Vol 35(2). Pp. 306-332
Online Appendix
[Pre-publication version paper]
Podcast
Abstract
To date, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have a three-stage graduated driver licensing (GDL) system that phases in driving privileges for teenagers. GDL laws effectively impose a statutory driving curfew and a limitation on the number of passengers in motor vehicles. Both the timing of motor vehicle access and a limitation on the peer influences available in a motor vehicle could significantly affect the production of criminal behavior. Using the Uniform Crime Reports 1995-2011 and a triple differences approach, we find that the implementation of GDL decreased criminal participation by six percent among teenagers between the ages of 16 and 17, as measured by arrests. These effects were larger in magnitude in states where the nighttime driving curfew is required for a longer period of time. Also, GDL plays a particularly important role in reducing crime in periods of low gasoline prices, when teen driver prevalence would have been high otherwise. These results suggest that there is another benefit to states for adopting GDL laws and provide insight into the production of teenage crime.
Media Coverage
Media Coverage 1
Media Coverage 2

The Intergenerational Effects of Education on Delinquency
(joint with Aaron Chalfin) Forthcoming, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization)
Online Appendix
Abstract

Children of less educated parents are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior. One explanation for this is that better educated parents are inherently more likely to raise children in ways that are less conducive to criminal participation. Alternatively, additional parental education may change parents’ behavior in ways that reduces their children’s propensity to commit crime. Using data from the NLSY79 and variation induced by changes in compulsory schooling laws in the United States, we find that an increase in parental education reduces delinquent behavior among the children of those exposed to compulsory schooling laws. This research is the first to uncover evidence of an intergenerational effect of education on crime in the United States. We conclude that previous analyses of compulsory schooling laws – and investments in education more generally – appreciably underestimate the full benefits of investments in education.

The Effect of Parental Education on Children's Drug and Alcohol Use  (Forthcoming AER Papers and Proceedings, joint with Aaron Chalfin)
Abstract

This research is the first to uncover evidence of an intergenerational effect of education on substance use in the United States. Using data from the NLSY79 and variation in education induced by changes in compulsory schooling laws, we study the effect of parental education on children’s use of drugs and alcohol. We find that an increase in parental education decreases alcohol consumption – binge drinking, in particular – and has no effect on marijuana consumption among youth. Given the high social costs associated with alcohol abuse, we conclude that previous research on education may appreciably underestimate the benefits of investments in education.

Local Natural Resources and Crime: Evidence from Oil Price Fluctuations in Texas (Joint with Rodney Andrews), Forthcoming Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization

[Pre-publication version]

Abstract
We exploit plausibly exogenous changes in the value of reserves in Texas's giant oil fields to determine the impact of crime in Texas counties that have reserves.  Texas provides an ideal setting for this research strategy. First, Texas has the largest number of giant oil fields. Second, Texas's giant oil fields possess the greatest remaining oil potential. Third, giant oil fields are dispersed throughout the state. We find that a 1% increase in the value of oil reserves increases murder by 0.16%, robbery by 0.55% and larceny by 0.18%. Using the estimated elasticities, an average increase in the value of oil reserves (26% increase in the value of reserves) results in a 4.15% increase in murder rates, 8% increase in robbery and 4.7% increase in larceny. These effects are not trivial. We explore potential mechanisms that could be driving this increase in crime and find that an increase in the value of local oil reserves improves the local economic conditions, increases the share of young males, and increases the share of individuals residing in group quarters (e.g. temporary worker housing) of its county with no effect on the local economic conditions, demographic changes or crime rates of adjacent counties 

WORKING PAPERS

The Effects of the 1994 California Three Strikes Law on Plea Bargaining: Evidence from the State Court Processing Statistics
Abstract
In 1994, California implemented "Three Strikes and You-re Out" laws that enhance the sentence length for repeat violent offenders. I use data from the 1990-2006 State Court Processing Statistics database and a difference-in-difference research design to compare the change in the likelihood of plea bargaining by violent offenders after the passage of Three Strikes Laws, relative to the trend among non-violent offenders. The results show that the introduction of the California Three Strikes laws significantly decreases the number of criminal cases that are being settled with a plea bargain among potential first-strike offenders, imposing a potentially costly burden on the California legal system.

Graduated Driver Licensing and Teen Fertility , (Revised and Resubmitted, Economics and Human Biology)
Abstract
This paper evaluates the effect of implementing nighttime driving curfews and passenger restrictions mandated by graduated driver licensing (GDL) on teen fertility. Both components of GDL potentially restrict the freedom and mobility of minor drivers by requiring adult supervision, and therefore reduces opportunities to become pregnant. Using birth data from the National Vital Statistics (NVSS) and a triple differences approach, I find that the implementation of “tough” GDL decreased fertility by 3% -4% among mothers between the ages of 16 and 18. This effect is driven by the states that require driving curfews for at least a year before teenagers can obtain their unrestricted drivers license.

Abstract
This study leverages a remarkable natural experiment created by recent legislation in Arizona to study the impact on crime of a large decline in the state's foreign-born Mexican population. I show that this population decreased by as much as 20 percent in the wake of the passage of a broad-based "E-verify" law requiring employers to verify the immigration status of new employees. In contrast to previous literature. I find evidence that immigrants are associated with property crimes. However, results are driven by especially large population declines among young men and, as such, the effects are purely compositional.

The Effect of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs on Crime , (joint with Dhaval Dave and Brady Horn)
Abstract

The past two decades have witnessed a substantial increase in opioid use and abuse in the United States. In response to this opioid epidemic, prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) have been implemented in virtually all states. These programs collect, monitor, and analyze prescription opioid data with the goal of preventing the abuse and diversion of controlled substances. A growing literature has found that voluntary PDMPs, which do not require doctors to access PDMPs before prescribing opioids, have had little effect on opioid use and misuse. However, PDMPs that do mandate access have been found to be effective in reducing opioid misuse and other related health outcomes. In this paper we study the broader impact of voluntary and mandatory-access PDMPs on crime, and in the process inform the causal link between prescription opioid abuse and crime. Using information on offenses known to law enforcement and arrests from the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), combined with a difference-in-differences empirical strategy, we find that voluntary PDMPs did not significantly affect crime whereas mandatory-access PDMPs have reduced crime by approximately 3.5%. Reductions in crime are largely associated with violent crimes, particularly homicide and assault. Also, we find evidence that young adults experienced the largest decrease in crime, which is consistent with prior work that also finds relatively larger declines in prescription opioid abuse for this group. Overall, these results specifically provide additional evidence that prescription drug monitoring programs are an effective social policy to mitigate the negative consequences of opioid misuse, and more broadly indicate that opioid policies can have important spillover effects into other non-health related domains such as crime.


Abstract
The neoclassical economic model of crime envisions crime as a gamble undertaken by a rational individual who is weighing the costs and benefits of offending at the margin. A large literature estimates the sensitivity of crime to policy inputs that shift the cost of offending such as police and prisons. In this paper, we point out that participants in the market for offenses also respond to transitory changes in situational factors and that these are in constant flux. We consider the responsiveness of crime to a pervasive and common health shock which we argue shifts costs and benefits for offenders and victims: seasonal allergies. Leveraging daily variation in city-specific pollen counts, we present novel evidence that violent crime declines in U.S. cities on days in which the local pollen count is unusually high and that these effects are driven by residential violence. While past literature suggests that property crimes have more instrumental motives, require planning, and hence are particularly sensitive to permanent changes in the cost and benefits of crime, we find evidence that violence may be especially sensitive to situational factors

WORK IN PROGRESS
Valuing Commuting Time and Access to Light-Rail: Evidence from the Dallas Area Rapid Transit System (joint with Juan Carlos Suarez-Serrato, Duke University)

Unemployment, Alcohol and Tobacco Use: Separating State Dependence from Unobserved Heterogeneity

Minimum Wages and Teen Fertility (Joint with Joseph Sabia)

The Intergenerational Effects of income on Criminal Participation: Evidence from the EITC (Joint with Alvaro Mezza)

The Effects of the Military Service on the Next Generation's Criminal Participation: Evidence from the Vietnam Draft Lottery (Joint with Alvaro Mezza)

Income and Crime: Evidence from the Alaska Permanent Fund (joint with Catherine Maclean)

Access to Mental Healthcare Providers and Local Crime (joint with Catherine Maclean and Keisha Solomon)






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