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.

Working Papers

under review, [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.

Long-Run Effects of School Segregation on Whites' Partisanship: Evidence for the Racial Threat Hypothesis

under review, [PDF]

What effect does whites' exposure to people of different races and ethnicities in childhood have on their partisanship later in life? Two literatures - one on the deleterious effects of racial threat, the other on the beneficial effects of intergroup contact - offer different predictions about whether such exposure should lead to increases in Republican or Democratic partisanship respectively. Here, I explore this question by leveraging the conclusion of court-ordered school desegregation between 1990 and 2014, which resulted in an exogenous increase in the racial segregation of a subset of the public high schools in the United States. Contemporaneous survey data from these schools indicate that white students in more segregated schools exhibited more favorable attitudes towards people of color. To link adolescent schooling data with present-day partisanship, names and graduation years of high school students were identified by scraping a website for high school alumni; these were merged with present-day voter files of six Southern states. Consistent with theories of racial threat, I find that as levels of racial segregation increased, non-Hispanic white students were significantly more likely to identify as Democrats 20 years after graduating by about 3.5 percentage points.

Works in Progress

The Effects of Education Spending on Voter Turnout  (with John Holbein)

Language, Partisan Attachments, and Political Participation in the United States (with Rebecca Morton)  [Pre-Analysis Plan]

All We Do Is Win:  The Effect of Team Success on Partisanship of White Athletes