Working Paper Series

  • Local Public Finance

    John Quigley

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper: GSPP07-101 (May 2008)

    The mobility of consumers and producers in response to fiscal incentives gives the study of local public finance its distinctive
    character. Households and firms are partitioned into spatial units on the basis of preferences, costs and the incentives provided by
    local tax and expenditure policies. These fiscal incentives are, in turn, chosen by the members of each of these jurisdictions or
    clubs. Externalities within and between these localities greatly affect the efficiency of taxation and the provision of public goods
    and services.

  • Do Citizens Know Whether Their State Has Decriminalized Marijuana? A Test of the Perceptual Assumpti

    Robert MacCoun, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, Jamie F. Chriqui, Katherine M. Harris , Peter H. Reuter

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper: GSPP08-011 (April 2008)

    Deterrence theory proposes that legal compliance is influenced by the anticipated risk of legal sanctions. This implies that changes in law will produce corresponding changes in behavior, but the marijuana decriminalization literature finds only fragmentary support for this prediction. But few studies have directly assessed the accuracy of citizens' perceptions of legal sanctions. The heterogeneity in state statutory penalties for marijuana possession across the United States provides an opportunity to examine this issue. Using national survey data, we find that the percentages who believe they could be jailed for marijuana possession are quite similar in both states that have removed those penalties and those that have not. Our results help to clarify why statistical studies have found inconsistent support for an effect of decriminalization on marijuana possession.

  • Converting Sentiments to Dollars: Scaling and Incommensurability Problems in the Evaluation of Child

    Robert MacCoun, Sanford L. Braver , Ira Mark Ellman

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper: GSPP08-013 (April 2008)

    We examine how ordinary citizens translate intuitions about child welfare and distributive justice into dollar amounts for post-divorce child support payments. Our analyses indicate that child support judgments are quite sensitive to anchoring and question-wording effects. Nevertheless, we find much that is both interpretable and principled in these judgments. For example, the amounts that citizens recommended in an open-ended format ("name") were nearly identical to the amounts other citizens selected from an array of choices in a multiple choice format ("choose").

  • Index Revision, House Price Risk, and the Market for House Price Derivatives

    John Quigley, Yongheng Deng

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (April 2008)

    It It is widely recognized that options and futures markets for housing can
    reduce and manage the risks inherent in consumers’ large investments in housing
    equity. The integrity of such markets depends, however, upon the use of transparent
    and replicable benchmarks for house prices and settlement values. In the USA, a
    series of state and metropolitan indexes have been produced by a government
    agency (the US Office of Housing Enterprise Oversight, OFHEO), and they have
    been widely disseminated for over a decade. By construction, the entire historical
    path of each of these indexes is, in principle, subject to revision quarterly, that is,
    every time the index is recalculated and data are published. This paper provides the
    first analysis of the magnitude and bias of these revisions, and it analyzes their
    systematic effects on the settlement prices in housing options markets. The paper
    considers the implications of these magnitudes for the development of risk-reducing
    futures markets.

  • Distinguishing Spurious and Real Peer Effects: Evidence from Artificial Societies, Small-Group Exper

    Robert MacCoun, Philip J. Cook , Clara Muschkin , Jacob L. Vigdor

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper: GSPP08-012 (April 2008)

    In a variety of important domains, there is considerable correlational evidence suggestive of what are variously referred to as social norm effects, contagion effects, information cascades, or peer effects. It is difficult to statistically identify whether such effects are causal, and there are various non-causal mechanisms that can produce such apparent norm effects. Lab experiments demonstrate that real peer effects occur, but also that apparent cascade or peer effects can be spurious. A curious feature of American local school configuration policy provides an opportunity to identify true peer influences among adolescents. Some school districts send 6th graders to middle school (e.g., 6th-8th grade "junior high"); others retain 6th graders for one additional year in K-6 elementary schools. Using administrative data on public school students in North Carolina, we have found that sixth grade students attending middle schools are much more likely to be cited for discipline problems than those attending elementary school, and the effects appear to persist at least through ninth grade. A plausible explanation is that these effects occur because sixth graders in middle schools are suddenly exposed to two cohorts of older, more delinquent peers.

  • Drug Use and Drug Policy in a Prohibition Regime

    Robert MacCoun, Karin D. Martin

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper: GSPP08-008 (April 2008)

    Prohibition makes some drug use and drug selling a crime by statute, but licit drugs like alcohol are also associated with criminality in myriad ways. Within a prohibition regime, it is difficult but important to distinguish a drug's "intrinsic" psychopharmacological harms from the harms created or exacerbated by prohibition and its enforcement. Rather than debating the merits of legalization (see MacCoun & Reuter, 2001), we evaluate current epidemiological patterns and mainstream policy instruments within the US prohibition regime, but we go beyond the standard criterion of prevalence reduction by considering harm reduction and quantity reduction as well. We close by speculating about some emerging challenges, including the "thizzle" scene and the future of performance enhancing drugs.

  • Risk Taking and Gender in Hierarchies

    Suzanne Scotchmer

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (January 2008)

    In a labor market hierarchy, promotions are affected by the noisiness of information about the candidates. I study the hypothesis that males are more risk taking than females, and its implications for rates of promotion and abilities of survivors. I define promotion hierarchies with and without memory, where memory means that promotion depends on the entire history of success. In both types of hierarchies, the surviving risk takers have lower average ability whenever they have a higher survival rate. Further, even if more risk takers than non risk takers are promoted in the beginning of the hierarchy, that will be reversed over time. The risk takers will eventually have a lower survival rate, but higher ability. As a consequence of these differences, the various requirements of employment law cannot simultaneously be satisfied. Further, if promotion standards are chosen to maximize profit, the standards will refle

  • Just Suppose: Housing Subsidies for Low-Income Renters

    John Quigley

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (December 2007)