Working Papers

The Impact of Criminal Financial Sanctions: A Multi-State Analysis of Survey and Administrative Data

(joint with Keith Finlay, Matthew Gross, Carl Leiberman, and Michael Mueller-Smith)

We estimate the impact of financial sanctions in the U.S. criminal justice system using nine distinct natural experiments across five states. These regression discontinuities capture a range of enforcement levels ($17–$6,000) and institutional environments, providing robust causal evidence and external validity. We leverage survey and administrative data to consider a variety of short and long-term outcomes including employment, recidivism, household expenditures, spousal spillovers, and other self-reported measures of well-being. We find consistent, robust evidence of precise null effects on the population, including ruling out long-run impacts larger than -$347–$168 in annual earnings and -0.002–0.01 in annual convictions.

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Subsumes two prior working papers:

“Criminal court fees, earnings, and expenditures: A multi-state RD analysis of survey and administrative data” with Carl Lieberman and Michael Mueller-Smith

“The Impact of Financial Sanctions: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Driver Responsibility Programs in Michigan and Texas” with Keith Finlay, Matthew Gross, and Michael Mueller-Smith

Probable Causation episode here

Not so Black and White: Uncovering Racial Bias from Systematically Misreported Trooper Reports


Individuals or organizations may attempt to hide biased actions by intentionally misreporting. I develop a model of highway searches, highlighting the incentive for biased troopers to misreport failed minority searches as White in an effort to appear less biased under commonly used tests of racial bias. Applying my model to highway searches in Texas from 2010–2015, I document widespread misreporting. Using the public backlash to the discovery of misreporting to study the effect of policy reform on policing, I find that the policy is effective in reducing misreporting, making the most biased troopers appear more biased relative to unbiased troopers.

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Probable Causation episode here

Works in Progress

Neighborhood Segregation and Gun Violence

(joint with Kenneth Whaley)

Disparate Fine Collection: Evidence using Chicago Parking Tickets

(joint with Ben Pyle and James Reeves)

Using a plausibly exogenous increase in the fine for failing to purchase annual vehicle registration in 2012, colloquially known as the sticker tax, I test if Chicago police disparately enforced parking compliance across black and non-black neighborhoods from 2007 to 2017. I find that police behavior is responsive to the penalty structure of the fine and are 20 to 50 percent more likely to apply the sticker fine to black neighborhoods after the increase. This disparate enforcement is robust to employment controls and is not driven by changing compliance rates across neighborhoods. In contrast, I find that parking enforcement agents do not disparately enforce the tickets across black and non-black neighborhoods. I attribute this difference in behavior between parking enforcement agents and police officers to the lack of work evaluations based on ticketing productivity for police officers. Since police officers are not evaluated by their parking citation productivity, they do not behave as revenue-maximizing agents in the context of parking enforcement.

Currently under major revision.