Publications by year

The Future of Felon Disenfranchisement Reform: Evidence from the Campaign to Restore Voting Rights in Florida
This Article offers an empirical account of felon disenfranchisement and legal financial obligations in the era of mass incarceration. It focuses on a 2018 ballot initiative, known as Amendment 4, which sought to end lifetime disenfranchisement in Florida. At the time, the Republican-controlled state accounted for more than a quarter of the six million citizens disenfranchised across the United States. Marshaling hundreds of public information requests, the Article analyzes the petitions collected to qualify the initiative for the ballot, the ballots cast for its remarkable bipartisan victory, the voter registration records of people whose voting rights were restored, and the outstanding fines and fees that still prevent most people with felony convictions from voting. Part I offers a history of the campaign and the tradeoffs it made to win Republican support, including its decisions to deemphasize race and limit the scope of reform. Part II validates the campaign’s effort to depoliticize disenfranchisement by demonstrating the limited partisan consequences of restoring the right to vote to people with felony convictions. Finally, Part III shows how unpaid fines and fees undermined the campaign’s attempt to dismantle disenfranchisement. Despite Amendment 4, Florida continues to disenfranchise more citizens than any other state. 
Banks, Alternative Institutions, and the Spatial-Temporal Ecology of Racial Inequality
Small, Mario L., Armin Akhavan, Mo Torres, and Qi Wang. Forthcoming. “Banks, Alternative Institutions, and the Spatial-Temporal Ecology of Racial Inequality.” Nature Human Behavior.
Using Interviews to Understand Why: Challenges and Strategies in the Study of Motivated Action
Small, Mario L., and Jenna M. Cook. Forthcoming. “Using Interviews to Understand Why: Challenges and Strategies in the Study of Motivated Action.” Sociological Methods & Research. Abstract

This article examines an important and thorny problem in interview research: How to assess whether what people say motivated their actions actually did so? We ask three questions: What specific challenges are at play? How have researchers addressed them? And how should those strategies be evaluated? We argue that such research faces at least five challenges—deceptionrecall errorreasonableness biasintentionality bias, and single-motive bias—that more than a dozen strategies have been deployed to address them; that the strategies have been externalinternal, or interactional in nature; and that each class of strategies demands distinct evaluation criteria. Researchers will likely fail to uncover motivation if they ignore the possibility of each challenge, conflate one challenge with another, or deploy strategies unmatched to the challenge at hand. Our work helps systematize the evaluation of interview-based studies of motivated action and strengthen the scientific foundations of in-depth interview research.


Public Money Talks Too: How Public Campaign Financing Degrades Representation
Kilborn, Mitchell, and Arjun Vishwanath. Forthcoming. “Public Money Talks Too: How Public Campaign Financing Degrades Representation.” American Journal of Political Science. Abstract
Does public campaign financing improve representation by reducing politicians’ re-liance on wealthy donors as advocates claim, or does it worsen representation by ex-panding the candidate marketplace to give extreme and non-representative candidatesan electoral boost? We conduct a novel analysis of public financing programs in Ari-zona, Connecticut, and Maine to causally identify the effect of a legislator’s fundingstatus on how closely she represents constituent preferences. Using multiple identifica-tion strategies, we show that candidates who exclusively use public campaign financingare more extreme and less representative of their districts than non-publicly financedcandidates. Our findings add new evidence to the electoral reform debate by demon-strating how replacing private campaign donations with public financing can actuallydamage substantive representation. We also advance the scholarship on how institu-tions affect substantive representation and candidate positioning as they respond tonew campaign financing structures.
The Liquidity Sensitivity of Healthcare Consumption: Evidence from Social Security Payments
Gross, Tal, Timothy J. Layton, and Daniel Prinz. Forthcoming. “The Liquidity Sensitivity of Healthcare Consumption: Evidence from Social Security Payments.” American Economic Review: Insights. Abstract
Insurance is typically viewed as a mechanism for transferring resources from good to bad states. Insurance, however, may also transfer resources from high-liquidity periods to low-liquidity periods. We test for this type of transfer from health insurance by studying the distribution of Social Security checks among Medicare recipients. When Social Security checks are distributed, prescription fills increase by 6–12 percent among recipients who pay small copayments. We find no such pattern among recipients who face no copayments. The results demonstrate that more-complete insurance allows recipients to consume healthcare when they need it rather than only when they have cash.
Life expectancy inequalities in Hungary over 25 years: The role of avoidable deaths
Bíró, Anikó, Tamás Hajdu, Gábor Kertesi, and Dániel Prinz. Forthcoming. “Life expectancy inequalities in Hungary over 25 years: The role of avoidable deaths.” Population Studies. Abstract
Using mortality registers and administrative data on income and population, we develop new evidence on the magnitude of life expectancy inequality in Hungary and the scope for health policy in mitigating this. We document considerable inequalities in life expectancy at age 45 across settlement-level income groups, and show that these inequalities have increased between 1991–96 and 2011–16 for both men and women. We show that avoidable deaths play a large role in life expectancy inequality. Income-related inequalities in health behaviours, access to care, and healthcare use are all closely linked to the inequality in life expectancy.
Hoping for the Worst? A Paradoxical Preference for Bad News
Barasz, Kate, and Serena F. Hagerty. Forthcoming. “Hoping for the Worst? A Paradoxical Preference for Bad News.” Journal of Consumer Research. Abstract
Nine studies investigate when and why people may paradoxically prefer bad news—for example, hoping for an objectively worse injury or a higher-risk diagnosis over explicitly better alternatives. Using a combination of field surveys and randomized experiments, the research demonstrates that people may hope for relatively worse (vs. better) news in an effort to preemptively avoid subjectively difficult decisions (studies 1 and 2). This is because when worse news avoids a choice (study 3A)—for example, by “forcing one’s hand” or creating one dominant option that circumvents a fraught decision (study 3B)—it can relieve the decision-maker’s experience of personal responsibility (study 3C). However, because not all decisions warrant avoidance, not all decisions will elicit a preference for worse news; fewer people hope for worse news when facing subjectively easier (vs. harder) choices (studies 4A and B). Finally, this preference for worse news is not without consequence and may create perverse incentives for decision-makers, such as the tendency to forgo opportunities for improvement (studies 5A and B). The work contributes to the literature on decision avoidance and elucidates another strategy people use to circumvent difficult decisions: a propensity to hope for the worst.
Robson, Cierra, and Ruha Benjamin. Forthcoming. “Race and Technology.” The Oxford Handbook of Race and Law in the United States, edited by Khiara Bridges, Emily Houh, and Devon Carbado. Oxford University Press.
Robson, Cierra. Forthcoming. “Broken Mirrors: Surveillance in Oakland as both Reflection and Refraction of California’s Carceral State .” Abstractions and Embodiments: New Histories of Computing and Society, edited by Stephanie DIck and Janet Abbate. Johns Hopkins University Press.
Locked Out of College: When Admissions Bureaucrats Do and Do Not Discriminate
Brown, Jacob R., and Hanno Hilbig. Forthcoming. “Locked Out of College: When Admissions Bureaucrats Do and Do Not Discriminate.” British Journal of Political Science, 1-11. Abstract

How does an individual's criminal record shape interactions with the state and society? This article presents evidence from a nationwide field experiment in the United States, which shows that prospective applicants with criminal records are about 5 percentage points less likely to receive information from college admission offices. However, this bias does not extend to race: there is no difference in response rates to Black and White applicants. The authors further show that bias is all but absent in public bureaucracies, as discrimination against formerly incarcerated applicants is driven by private schools. Examining why bias is stronger for private colleges, the study demonstrates that the private–public difference persists even after accounting for college selectivity, socio-economic composition and school finances. Moving beyond the measurement of bias, an intervention designed to reduce discrimination is evaluated: whether an email from an advocate mitigates bias associated with a criminal record. No evidence is found that advocate endorsements decrease bureaucratic bias.


Redistribution under general decision rules
Parameswaran, Girl, and Hunter Rendleman. Forthcoming. “Redistribution under general decision rules.” Journal of Public Economic Theory. Abstract

We study the political economy of redistribution over a broad class of decision rules. Since the core is generically non-unique, we suggest a simple and elegant procedure to select a robust equilibrium. Our selected policy depends on the full income profile, and in particular, on the preferences of two decisive voters. The effect of increasing inequality on redistribution depends on the decision rule and the shape of the income distribution; redistribution will increase if both decisive voters are 'relatively poor', and decrease if at least one is sufficiently 'rich'. Additionally, redistribution decreases as the polity adopts increasingly stringent super-majority rules.

The Border Within: The Economics of Immigration in an Age of Fear
Watson, Tara, and Kalee Thompson. Forthcoming. The Border Within: The Economics of Immigration in an Age of Fear . University of Chicago Press, 304. Abstract
An eye-opening analysis of the costs and effects of immigration and immigration policy, both on American life and on new Americans.

For decades, immigration has been one of the most divisive, contentious topics in American politics. And for decades, urgent calls for its policy reform have gone mostly unanswered. As the discord surrounding the modern immigration debate has intensified, border enforcement has tightened. Crossing harsher, less porous borders makes unauthorized entry to the United States a permanent, costly undertaking. And the challenges don’t end on the other side.

At once enlightening and devastating, The Border Within examines the costs and ends of America’s interior enforcement—the policies and agencies, including ICE, aimed at removing immigrants already living in the country. Economist Tara Watson and journalist Kalee Thompson pair rigorous analysis with deeply personal stories from immigrants and their families to assess immigration’s effects on every aspect of American life, from the labor force to social welfare programs to tax revenue. What emerges is a critical, utterly complete examination of what non-native Americans bring to the country, including immigration’s tendency to elevate the wages and skills of those who are native-born.

News coverage has prompted many to question the humanity of American immigration policies; The Border Within opens a conversation of whether it is effective. The United States spends billions each year on detention and deportation, all without economic gain and at a great human cost. With depth and discipline, the authors dissect the shock-and-awe policies that make up a broken, often cruel system, while illuminating the lives caught in the chaos. It is an essential work with far-reaching implications for immigrants and non-immigrants alike.
What's the Worst That Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics

Why catastrophic risks are more dangerous than you think, and how populism makes them worse.

Did you know that you're more likely to die from a catastrophe than in a car crash? The odds that a typical US resident will die from a catastrophic event—for example, nuclear war, bioterrorism, or out-of-control artificial intelligence—have been estimated at 1 in 6. That's fifteen times more likely than a fatal car crash and thirty-one times more likely than being murdered. In What's the Worst That Could Happen?, Andrew Leigh looks at catastrophic risks and how to mitigate them, arguing provocatively that the rise of populist politics makes catastrophe more likely. 

Leigh explains that pervasive short-term thinking leaves us unprepared for long-term risks. Politicians sweat the small stuff—granular policy details of legislation and regulation—but rarely devote much attention to reducing long-term risks. Populist movements thrive on short termism because they focus on their followers' immediate grievances. Leigh argues that we should be long-termers: lengthen our thinking and give big threats the attention and resources they need. 

Leigh outlines the biggest existential risks facing humanity and suggests remedies for them. He discusses pandemics, considering the possibility that the next virus will be more deadly than COVID-19; warns that unchecked climate change could render large swaths of the earth inhabitable; describes the metamorphosis of the arms race from a fight into a chaotic brawl; and examines the dangers of runaway superintelligence. Moreover, Leigh points out, populism (and its crony, totalitarianism) not only exacerbates other dangers, but is also a risk factor in itself, undermining the institutions of democracy as we watch.

Punishing Places: The Geography of Mass Imprisonment
Simes, Jessica T. Forthcoming. Punishing Places: The Geography of Mass Imprisonment. University of California Press, 242. Abstract
Punishing Places applies a unique spatial analysis to mass incarceration in the United States. It demonstrates that our highest imprisonment rates are now in small cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Jessica Simes argues that mass incarceration should be conceptualized as one of the legacies of U.S. racial residential segregation, but that a focus on large cities has diverted vital scholarly and policy attention away from communities affected most by mass incarceration today. This book presents novel measures for estimating the community-level effects of incarceration using spatial, quantitative, and qualitative methods. This analysis has broad and urgent implications for policy reforms aimed at ameliorating the community effects of mass incarceration and promoting alternatives to the carceral system.
The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power
Hacker, Jacob S., Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Paul Pierson, and Kathleen Thelen, ed. Forthcoming. The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power. Abstract

This volume brings together leading political scientists to explore the distinctive features of the American political economy. The introductory chapter provides a comparatively informed framework for analyzing the interplay of markets and politics in the United States, focusing on three key factors: uniquely fragmented and decentralized political institutions; an interest group landscape characterized by weak labor organizations and powerful, parochial business groups; and an entrenched legacy of ethno-racial divisions embedded in both government and markets. Subsequent chapters look at the fundamental dynamics that result, including the place of the courts in multi-venue politics, the political economy of labor, sectional conflict within and across cities and regions, the consolidation of financial markets and corporate monopoly and monopsony power, and the ongoing rise of the knowledge economy. Together, the chapters provide a revealing new map of the politics of democratic capitalism in the United States.

  • Provides a comprehensive analysis of the American political economy in comparative perspective
  • Develops a theoretical framework that emphasizes how distinctive features of the US political economy have interacted with one another over time to produce unique patterns of inequality, power, and precarity
  • Sheds new light on under-examined institutions, actors, and arenas of conflict, generating insights for the study of both American politics and comparative politics
Immigration Policies and Access to the Justice System: The Effect of Enforcement Escalations on Undocumented Immigrants and Their Communities

Does intensifying immigrationenforcement lead to under-reporting of crime among undocumented immigrants and their communities? We empirically test the claims of activists and legal advocates that the escalation of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities in 2017 negatively impacted the willingness of undocumented immigrants and Hispanic communities to report crime. We hypothesize that ICE cooperation with local law enforcement, in particular, discourages undocumented immigrants and their Hispanic community members from reporting crime. Using a difference-in-difference approach and FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data at the county level, we find that total reported crime fell from 2016 to 2017 in counties with higher shares of Hispanic individuals and in counties where local law enforcement had more cooperation with ICE. Using the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), we show that these declines in the measured crime rate are driven by decreased crime reporting by Hispanic communities rather than by decreased crime commission or victimization. Finally, we replicate these results in a second case study by leveraging the staggered roll-out of the 2008–2014 Secure Communities program across US counties. Taken together, our findings add to a growing body of literature demonstrating how immigration enforcement reduces vulnerable populations’ access to state services, including the criminal justice system.

Childhood exposure to polluted neighborhood environments and intergenerational income mobility, teenage birth, and incarceration in the USA

This paper joins a growing body of research linking measures of the physical environment to population well-being, with a focus on neighborhood toxins. Extending a national database on the social mobility of American children growing up in over 70,000 Census tracts, we explore the association between childhood exposure to two forms of pollutants and three socioeconomic outcomes for African Americans, whites, and Latinos. We find that children who grew up in Census tracts with higher levels of traffic-related air pollution and housing-derived lead risk experienced lower adult incomes on average relative to their parents and higher likelihoods of being incarcerated as an adult or having children as teenagers, after controlling for standard socio-demographic characteristics and metropolitan-level effects. The spatial distribution of these two pollutants is surprisingly different, however, with air pollution varying mostly between regions of the country while lead risk varies dramatically between neighborhoods within the same city. Yet, each pollutant predicts the three aspects of social mobility similarly, and we show important disparities in exposure by race. Differential exposure to environmental toxins in childhood may be a contributor to racial inequality in socioeconomic outcomes among adults.


The racial burden of voter list maintenance errors: Evidence from Wisconsin’s supplemental movers poll books
Huber, Gregory A., Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, and Katie Steele. 2021. “The racial burden of voter list maintenance errors: Evidence from Wisconsin’s supplemental movers poll books.” Science Advances 7 (7). Abstract
Administrative records are increasingly used to identify registered voters who may have moved, with potential movers then sent postcards asking them to confirm their address of registration. It is important to understand how often these registrants did not move, and how often such an error is not corrected by the postcard confirmation process, because uncorrected errors make it more difficult for a registrant to subsequently vote. While federal privacy protections generally prevent researchers from observing the data necessary to estimate these quantities, we are able to study this process in Wisconsin because special poll books, available via public records requests, listed those registrants who were identified as potential movers and did not respond to a subsequent postcard. At least 4% of these registrants cast a ballot at their address of registration, with minority registrants twice as likely as white registrants to do so.
Who Votes Without Identification? Using Individual-Level Administrative Data to Measure the Burden of Strict Voter Identification Laws
Henninger, Phoebe, Marc Meredith, and Michael Morse. 2021. “Who Votes Without Identification? Using Individual-Level Administrative Data to Measure the Burden of Strict Voter Identification Laws.” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 18: 256-286. Abstract
Legal disputes over laws that require certain forms of identification (ID) to vote mostly focus on the burden placed on people who do not possess ID. We contend that this singular focus ignores the burden imposed on people who do possess ID, but nonetheless cannot access it when voting. To measure this alternative conception of burden, we focus on Michigan, which allows anyone who lacks access to ID to vote after signing an affidavit. A sample of affidavits filed in the 2016 presidential election from a random set of precincts reveals that about 0.45 percent of voters lacked access to ID. Consistent with our broader conception of the burden of voter ID laws, nearly all voters who filed an affidavit were previously issued a still-active state ID. Importantly, we show minority voters were about five times more likely to lack access to ID than white voters. We also present survey evidence suggesting that people who live in states where voters are asked to show ID, as in Michigan, are more likely to incorrectly believe that access to ID is required to vote than are people who live in states that do not ask voters to show ID.
The spatial structure of US metropolitan employment: New insights from administrative data
Manduca, Robert. 2021. “The spatial structure of US metropolitan employment: New insights from administrative data.” Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science 48 (5): 1357-1372. Abstract

Urban researchers have long debated the extent to which metropolitan employment is monocentric, polycentric, or diffuse. In this paper I use high-resolution data based on unemployment insurance records to show that employment in US metropolitan areas is not centralized but is spatially concentrated. Unlike residents, who form a continuous surface covering most parts of each metropolitan area, jobs have a bimodal spatial distribution, with most blocks containing no jobs whatsoever and a small number having extremely high employment densities. Across the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas, about 75% of jobs are located on the 6.5% of built land in Census blocks with at least twice as many jobs as people. These relative proportions are extremely consistent across cities, even though they vary greatly in the physical density at which they are constructed. Motivated by these empirical regularities, I introduce an algorithm to identify contiguous business districts and classify them into four major types. Based solely on the relative densities of employment and population, this algorithm is both simpler to implement and more flexible than current approaches, requiring no metro-specific tuning parameters and no assumptions about urban spatial layout.