Working Paper Series

  • Intuitive Lawmaking: The Example of Child Support

    Robert MacCoun, Ira Mark Ellman, Sanford L. Braver

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper: GSPP08-009 (July 2007)

    Legal rules are often understood as setting the appropriate balance between competing claims. One might expect policymakers to identify these competing claims and employ a systematic and comprehensive analysis to assign them relative values, and to generate legal rules that follow from those values. But probably, they will not. If policy is instead set by intuitive assessments of the fair balance between competing claims, policymakers would do well to have a good understanding of the public's intuitions about these policy questions. Would a careful study of such intuitions reveal a coherent analytic framework in lay policy judgments, even if most people are unlikely to articulate their views in that way? This study examines that question in the context of child support rules. Child support awards necessarily involve tradeoffs in the allocation of finite resources among at least three private parties: the two parents, and their child or children. Using a sample of citizens called to jury service, we find that our respondents follow a predictable and rational course in their intuitive lawmaking. Their judgments in individual cases varied systematically with their views about four basic principles, suggesting that our respondents largely share a common understanding of the relevant factors that should influence decisions in particular cases, even though they differ in their judgment of the appropriate support level in many of them. Once anchored by their initial judgments, our respondents decide individual cases with considerable consistency and predictability. While gender differences conform to stereotypic expectations, the magnitude of these differences shrink when those with personal experience in the legal child support system are removed from the sample. Additional findings to be presented in future papers are also foreshadowed here.

  • Intellectual Property

    Suzanne Scotchmer, Peter S. Menell

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (May 2007)

    This chapter provides a comprehensive survey of the burgeoning literature on the law and economics of intellectual property. It is organized around the two principal objectives of intellectual property law: promoting innovation and aesthetic creativity (focusing on patent and copyright protection) and protecting integrity of the commercial marketplace (trademark protection and unfair competition law). Each section sets forth the economic problem, the
    principal models and analytical frameworks, application of economic analysis to particular structural and doctrinal issues, interactions with other legal regimes (such as competition policy), international dimensions, and comparative analysis of intellectual property protection and other means of addressing the economic problem (such as public funding and prizes in the case of patent and copyright law and direct consumer protection statutes and public enforcement in the case of trademarks).

  • Intellectual Property: When is it the Best Incentive Mechanism?

    Suzanne Scotchmer, Nancy Gallini

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (April 2007)

    Intellectual property is not the only mechanism used in the American economy for rewarding R&D. Prizes and contract research of various types are also com- mon. Given the current controversies that swirl around intellectual property policies, we review the economic reasoning that supports patent and other intellectual property over the alternatives. For those economic environments where intellectual property is justified, we review some of the arguments for why it is designed as it is. We focus particularly on the issue of how broad awards should be and how much protection should go to the original inventor (as opposed to those who subsequently improve the invention). We emphasize that the ideal design of an intellectual property system depends on the ease with which rightsholders can enter into licensing and other contractual arrangements involving these rights.

  • Intergenerational Risks of Criminal Involvement and Incarceration

    Rucker Johnson

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (April 2007)

    This paper provides nationally-representative estimates of the cumulative risks of
    incarceration and obtaining a criminal record by age 40 for a cohort born between 1951-
    1975. I show that men born in the 1960s/early 1970s have significantly greater
    cumulative lifetime risks of imprisonment than similarly-aged men born in the 1950s.
    This is in part a direct consequence of the transformation of incarceration and sentencing
    policy that took off in the 1980s. The racial disparities in lifetime incarceration risks are
    alarming. The results highlight that among black low-educated men, one-half either died
    or had been incarceration before the age of 40.

    Second, this analysis uses an innovative approach to investigate the relative
    importance of family background and neighborhood context on deviant behavior over the
    life course, including ever being expelled, criminal involvement, ever being incarcerated,
    the early formation of risk preferences, and risky health behaviors. Particularly
    noteworthy, the analysis of brother and male child neighbor correlations in adult
    incarceration history revealed remarkably high correlations of 0.69 and 0.54,
    respectively. These results highlight the profound influence that family and/or
    neighborhood background has on criminal involvement and risks of imprisonment.
    Moreover, the results suggest that neighborhood quality during childhood is a significant
    gatekeeper of the intergenerational transmission of deviant behavior and incarceration
    risks among males.

    Third, this study examines the intergenerational consequences by examining
    children of the next generation. I find, using the PSID-CDS data, that the prevalence
    rates of parental incarceration at some point during childhood are significantly larger than
    point-in-time estimates. I find that 20 percent of black children had a father with an
    incarceration history; and among black children with fathers who did not graduate from
    high school, an alarming 33 percent of their father’s had an incarceration history.
    Fourth, this study is among the first longitudinal child-outcome studies that
    examines the role of pre-incarceration risk factors and children’s living arrangements,
    parent-child relationships and substitute caregiver-child relationships, to help determine
    the impact of parental incarceration on families and children.

    I find linkages between exposure to parental incarceration and child behavioral
    outcomes. The pattern of results is remarkably similar across all of the empirical
    approaches utilized that address omitted variables bias—including hierarchical random
    effects models with an unusually extensive set of controls, family fixed effect models,
    child fixed effect models, and instrumental variables estimates. This study bears
    evidence on the extent to which parental incarceration has exacerbated racial disparities
    in childhood and in early adulthood.

  • When to Use a CCT Versus a CT Approach?

    Alain de Janvry, Elisabeth Sadoulet

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (July 2006)

  • Open Source Software: The New IP Paradigm

    Suzanne Scotchmer, Stephen M. Maurer

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (April 2006)

    Open source methods for creating software rely on developers who voluntarily reveal code in the expectation that other developers will reciprocate. Open source incentives are distinct from earlier uses of intellectual property, leading to different types of inefficiencies and different biasesin R&D
    investment. Open source style of software development remedies a defect of intellectual property protection, namely, that it does not generally require or encourage disclosure of source code. We review a considerable body of survey evidence and theory that seeks to explain why developers participateinopensource collaborationsinsteadofkeepingtheir codeproprietary, andevaluatesthe extent to which open source may improve welfare compared to proprietary development.

  • The Theory and Practice of Public Good Selection: The Case of Legal Aid

    Lee Friedman, Robert Letzler

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (November 2005)

    We began this research with two overlapping objectives. The first, and of most general
    academic interest, is to gain insight about the following puzzle: why has there been
    essentially nil implementation of any of the institutional ideas in the economics literature
    for improving the efficiency of public goods decisions? These ideas have been proposed
    and refined in literally hundreds of academic articles over the past 30 years, many of
    them have undergone extensive laboratory testing, and we have an extensive network of
    public policy practitioners and academics that might be expected to help bring them into
    practice. The second objective is more specific and of immediate policy relevance: to
    understand if there are opportunities to increase the effectiveness of the federal Legal
    Services Corporation (LSC) by improving its decisions about its own internal public
    goods, largely the provision of information to attorneys that directly service the eligible
    low-income population. Providing these public goods requires locating, customizing,
    synthesizing, and creating documents and templates, doing research, leading training, and
    answering questions. We hope that our joint consideration of these two objectives might
    be beneficial to each: identifying practical implications of the public goods literature may
    benefit the LSC, and a case-study of LSC may identify general challenges that public
    goods mechanism literature should address.

  • Capitalizing Art Museum Collections: Awkward for Museums But Good for Art and for Society

    Michael O’Hare

    Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper: GSPP08-005 (November 2005)

    Though standard accounting practice requires that all assets of a firm be manifest in accounts, an exception to this principle allows museums to omit their entire collections from their balance sheets. As the collection of any top-rank museum has more value than the rest of a typical museum's assets put together, this practice greatly obstructs good institutional decisionmaking. The practice is justified by an assertion common in the museum community that the collection is not a financial asset, neither available for sale nor obligation as a loan security, and by a variety of other assertions regarding the cost of assessing it. These assertions are shown to be choices with no fundamental support beyond museum management comfort, or to be erroneous. 

    The allocation of artistic patrimony across museums generates a return on investment below 1%, indicating that these assets are not being used efficiently to create the benefits museums (whether non-profit or public) are supposed to provide: no other organization would be allowed to control assets with such a low rate of return. Capitalizing collections is practical and would lead to a variety of beneficial changes in museum practice, on the criterion of inducing "more, better, engagement with more art by more people."