Research

Research Papers:

Gun Violence in Black and White: Evidence from Policy Reform in Missouri

Abstract: The extent to which gun control policies contribute to the significant racial disparities in U.S. gun violence remains largely unexplored in the empirical gun control literature.  On August 28, 2007 the Missouri General Assembly repealed an 86 year-old “permit-to-purchase” (PTP) law requiring that handgun purchasers possess a permit, and subsequently undergo a background check, for all sales.  Using generalized synthetic control methodology, this paper examines the impact of the 2007 Missouri PTP repeal on city-level gun violence and enforcement activity across racial groups.  Estimates suggest that the repeal led to exponential growth in statewide FBI handgun background checks among licensed dealers and a 24 percent increase in the fraction of suicides committed with a firearm (FSS) within the City of St. Louis and Jackson County.  Within St. Louis and Kansas City, the repeal led to a 19 percent increase in Black firearm homicide and a 22 percent decrease in Black non-gun homicide primarily driven by weapon substitution among Black youth.  The escalation in Black gun violence coincides with a 125 percent decrease in aggravated assault arrests and a 44 percent decrease in weapons arrests among Black suspects.  While this study largely finds no evidence of significant changes in White homicide victimization and enforcement activity, law enforcement officers themselves experience an additional 2.33 gun assaults per 100 officers.  The disproportionate shifts in gun violence, and declines in policing productivity, remain consistent with a preemption model in which strategic complementarities in violence contribute to disproportionate changes in homicide across racial groups as firearms become more readily available.

Police Force Size and Civilian Race (with Aaron Chalfin, Ben Hansen, and Emily Weisburst, Conditionally Accepted, American Economic Review: Insights)

Abstract: We report the first empirical estimate of the race-specific effects of larger police forces in the United States. Each additional police officer abates approximately 0.1 homicides. In per capita terms, effects are twice as large for Black versus white victims. At the same time, larger police forces make more arrests for low-level “quality-of-life” offenses, with effects that imply a disproportionate burden for Black Americans. Notably, cities with large Black populations do not share equally in the benefits of investments in police manpower. Our results provide novel empirical support for the popular narrative that Black communities are simultaneously over and under-policed.

Body-Worn Cameras and Policing: Benefits and Costs (with Nathan Weil, Elizabeth A. Rasich, Jens Ludwig, Hye Chang, and Sophia Egrari)

Abstract: Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are an increasingly common tool for police oversight, accountability, and transparency, yet there remains uncertainty about their impacts on policing outcomes. This paper reviews what we know about the benefits of BWCs and how those benefits compare to the costs of this new technology. We make two contributions relative to existing research. First, we update prior meta-analyses of studies of the impacts of BWCs on policing outcomes to incorporate the most recent, and largest, studies carried out to date in this literature. This additional information provides additional support for the idea that cameras may affect a number of policing outcomes that are important from a social welfare perspective, particularly police use of force. Second, we carry out a benefit-cost analysis of BWCs, as financial barriers are often cited as a key impediment to adoption by police departments. Our baseline estimate for the benefit-cost ratio of BWCs is 4.95. Perhaps as much as one-quarter of the estimated benefits accrue to government budgets directly, which suggests the possibility that this technology could, from the narrow perspective of government budgets, even pay for itself.

The Causal Health Effects of Education–Who Benefits and When? (with Markus Gehrsitz)

Abstract: We leverage both survey data and administrative health records to
estimate the causal effects of education on health. We specifically exploit two compulsory schooling reforms in Britain that led to half of the population receiving an additional year of high school education. While our survey data provide little evidence of an education-health gradient, administrative records suggests that reform led to significantly lower hospitalization rates for men experiencing the later of the two reforms–with these benefits primarily stemming from improvements in digestive health, cardiovascular health, and lower rates of alcohol abuse. These findings are consistent with theoretical predictions suggesting that the greatest health productivity gains takes place among middle-age adults relative to older or younger populations.

Works in Progress:

Health Insurance Loss and Recidivist Behavior: Evidence from New York State Medicaid Policy Reform

Recidivism and the Labor Markets for Ex-Convicts: Evidence from New York State “Ban-the-Box” Laws (with Jed Armstrong and Glenn C. Loury)

Underground Gun Markets and Homicide (with Brendan O’Flaherty and Rajiv Sethi)