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Working Paper Series

  • 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)

  • 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.