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Title: Essays on Public Economics and Criminal Justice
Authors: Mello, Steven
Advisors: Mas, Alexandre
Kuziemko, Ilyana
Contributors: Economics Department
Keywords: discrimination
economics of crime
financial fragility
Subjects: Economics
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: A theme throughout this dissertation is the application of questions in the field of public economics to the context of policing and the criminal justice system. Another common theme is the use of large datasets and quasi-experimental research designs for policy evaluation. A third theme is the consideration of the equity or distributional implications of criminal justice policies. The first chapter studies the ability of low-income individuals to cope with expense shocks. Using administrative data on traffic citations in Florida linked to high-frequency credit reports and leveraging variation in the timing of traffic stops with event study and difference-in-differences research designs, I study the impacts of fines for traffic violations on the financial situations of Florida drivers. I find that, following a traffic stop, the poorest quartile of drivers experience reductions in job stability and declines in financial health which are outsized relative to the typical fine amount. I conclude by estimating welfare losses associated with traffic fines and discussing implications for optimal policing. The second chapter, co-authored with Felipe Goncalves, estimates the degree to which individual police officers practice racial discrimination. Using a bunching estimation design, we document that nonwhite drivers are less likely than white drivers to benefit from lenience on the part of Florida Highway Patrol officers in the form of a reduced speeding charge. We further find that about forty percent of officers explain the entirety of the aggregate discrimination. We use our estimates of officer-level racial bias to explore the effectiveness of various personnel policies aimed at mitigating aggregate racial disparities. The third chapter exploits a natural experiment to estimate the causal effect of police hiring on local crime. I leverage quasi-random variation in the receipt of COPS hiring grants in 2009 by comparing the change over time in police and crimes for cities whose applications for funding were accepted and rejected. I find that police employment increased by 3.2 percent and cost-weighted crime fell by 3.5 percent in funded cities relative to unfunded cities. Crime declines associated with additional police were more pronounced in areas most affected by the Great Recession.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Economics

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