Does Money Have a Conservative Bias? Estimating the Causal Impact of Citizens United on State Legislative Preferences (with Anna Harvey)
Public Choice (2019) [PDF]
Recent work has suggested that the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United (2010), eliminating restrictions on independent spending in elections, increased the probability of election of Republican state legislative candidates. Left unexplored has been whether the Court's ruling in Citizens United not only increased the number of Republican state legislators, but also induced the movement of state legislators' preferences in a more conservative direction, net of any effects on Republican candidates' probabilities of election. We attempt to distinguish these electoral and preference effects of Citizens United. Estimates consistently suggest that the Citizens United -induced removal of state restrictions on independent spending led not only to increased probabilities of election for Republican state legislative candidates, but also to larger within-district increases in the conservatism of state legislators' preferences in formerly Democratic districts electing Republican state legislators post-ruling. These estimates, which are robust to a series of matching and placebo exercises, may provide support for the claim that an increased presence of money in elections has contributed to the increased conservatism of Republican elected officials.
Revise and Resubmit, Journal of Urban Economics [PDF]
Black Americans are substantially less safe than white Americans, with persistently higher risks of crime victimization. One possible cause of racial disparities in crime victimization may lie in racially disparate law enforcement responses to crime experienced by Black and white victims. We leverage idiosyncratic variation in the litigation of law enforcement agencies for racially discriminatory employment practices to identify changes in the nature of the police response to crime victimization. Using data from the National Crime Victimization Survey between 1979 and 2004, we find that successful litigation over racially discriminatory practices in law enforcement agencies substantially reduced both absolute and relative Black crime victimization. Our findings are robust to the identification and inference strategies proposed by Callaway and Sant’Anna (2020). We explore possible causal mechanisms, finding that litigation over racially discriminatory employment practices a) increased trust in the expected police response to victimization by both white and Black victims, but more so for Black victims, b) increased the reporting of victimization to law enforcement by both white and Black victims, but suggestively more so for Black victims, and c) increased Black officer shares, and decreased white officer shares. These findings suggest that interventions to reduce racially discriminatory practices in law enforcement agencies can lead to meaningful reductions in both absolute and relative Black crime victimization, without increasing white victimization.
Resegregated Schools, Racial Attitudes, and Long-Run Partisanship: Evidence for White Backlash
Brown v. Board (1954) catalyzed a nationwide effort by the federal judiciary to desegregate public schools by court order, representing a major achievement for the U.S. civil rights movement. Four decades later, courts began dismissing schools from desegregation decrees in a staggered fashion, causing their racial homogeneity to rise. I leverage this exogenous source of variation in the racial mix of schools released from court orders between 1990 and 2014 to explore two key aspects of how whites react to attending schools with students of color. First, contemporaneous survey data indicate that as schools re-segregated, white students in these schools expressed more favorable attitudes towards black and Latino students. Second, present-day voter records from six Southern states of white students in schools that re-segregated show that they are significantly more likely to identify with the more racially liberal party -- the Democrats -- today. The findings are consistent with white students experiencing resegregation as a reduction in social threat, and indicate that school desegregation efforts may have caused life-long shifts among white students toward racial and political conservatism.