Works in progress

Does Incarceration Increase Crime? with Yotam Shem-Tov

This paper studies the causal effect of incarceration on reoffending using discontinuities in state sentencing guidelines and two decades of administrative records from North Carolina. A regression discontinuity analysis shows that one year of incarceration reduces the likelihood of committing new assault, property, and drug offenses within three years of conviction by 38%, 24%, and 20%, respectively. Incarceration sentences temporarily incapacitate offenders by removing them from society but can also influence post-release criminal behavior. To parse the non-linear and heterogeneous effects of these channels, we develop an econometric model of sentencing length and recidivism. Our model allows for Roy-style selection into sentencing on the basis of latent criminality. We propose a two-step control function estimator of the model parameters and show that our estimates accurately reproduce the reduced form effects of the sentencing discontinuities we study. Our parameter estimates indicate that incarceration has modest crime-reducing behavioral effects that are diminishing in incarceration length. A cost-benefit analysis suggests, however, that the benefit of reducing crime by lengthening sentences (through both incapacitation and behavioral channels) is outweighed by the large fiscal costs of incarceration.

The Effects of Teacher Quality on Criminal Behavior with Jonathan Schellenberg and Yotam Shem-Tov
Working paper coming soon

This paper investigates the impact of teacher quality on future criminal behavior. Using a unique data set linking the universe of public school records to administrative criminal justice records for the state of North Carolina, we demonstrate strong associations between future criminal activity and early life education outcomes including test scores, attendance, and disciplinary records. We estimate value-added models measuring the causal impacts of teachers on short-run cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes in a multivariate random effects framework, and link these short-run effects to teacher effects on adult crime. We find that teachers primarily influence future crime through a non-cognitive channel, and that their cognitive and non-cognitive impacts are orthogonal. This result implies that test score-based measures miss an important component of the social value of teacher quality, suggesting scope for improved teacher assessment systems that also account for non-cognitive gains.

The Effects of Job Loss on Crime: Evidence from Administrative Data

This paper investigates the effects of job loss on recidivism using a novel merge of employer-employee wage data to administrative records on crime. I first use firm-level employment shocks to study the reduced form impact of job loss on offending. I then use a kink in unemployment insurance benefits to distinguish economic incentives from other factors, such as incapacitation through time spent at work, as a mechanism. I find that property crimes and domestic violence rise sharply after a layoff and remain elevated for up to two years. Economic incentives are an important mechanism, consistent with Becker-Ehrlich models.

Does Banning the Box Help Ex-Offenders Get Jobs? Evaluating the Effects of a Prominent Example
Revised and expanded; Online appendix

This paper uses merged administrative employment and conviction data to evaluate laws that restrict employers' information about job seekers' criminal records. I first show that records are barriers to employment: earnings decline 30% after a first conviction due to both less work overall and shifts to lower paying industries. However, I find that a 2013 Seattle law barring employers from examining job applicants' criminal records until after an initial screening had no impact on ex-offenders' employment or wages regardless of race. The results are consistent with ex-offenders applying only to jobs where a clean record is not a relevant qualification.

Published work

The Rise and Fall of Female Labor Force Participation During World War II in the United States
The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 78, No. 3 (September 2018); Online appendix

I use new data on employment and job placements during WWII to characterize the wartime surge in female work and its subsequent impact on female employment in the United States. The geography of female wartime work was primarily driven by industrial mobilization, not drafted men’s withdrawal from local labor markets. After the war, returning veterans and sharp cutbacks in war-related industries displaced many new female entrants, despite interest in continued work. As a result, areas most exposed to wartime work show limited overall effects on female labor force participation in 1950 and only marginal increases in durables manufacturing employment.