Date of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Economics, PhD

Program

School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Gregory DeAngelo

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Thomas Kniesner

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Melissa Rogers

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Rebecca Thornton

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Morgan Stockham

Abstract

Civil law and public policy often are related to crime in complex and interesting ways. The following dissertation explores the intersections of divorce law and public policy with criminal outcomes. Within my first chapter, we attempt to identify the causal effect of wages on a prosecutor’s effort by studying an exogenous salary increase in New York. We measure the performance by the likelihood that a conviction is upheld when appealed. If the efficiency wage theory explains behavior, then the exogenous wage shock should entice better performance. Alternatively, if individuals who hold office are motivated primarily by an intrinsic motivations rather than strictly financial compensation, then their performance would be unrelated to changes in their salary. We mostly find, inconsistent with efficiency wage theory, that a pay increase has a null effect on prosecutor performance. In my second chapter, we revisit Stevenson and Wolfers (2006) which theorized that unilateral divorce laws shifted power from one party to a distribution of power across both parties in the marriage. They theorized that this effectively providing an application of Coasian Bargaining. Utilizing a two-way fixed effects (TWFE) difference-in-difference estimator, they find that unilateral divorce had significantly reduced suicide rates, domestic violence, and intimate homicide. Innovations in econometric theory have raised concerns regarding the use of TWFE with differential timing in the treatment variable, leading to biased estimation. We revisit Stevenson and Wolfers (2006) with more modern estimators for suicide and intimate homicide rates and utilize appropriate estimators to examine the effect of unilateral divorce laws on suicides and intimate partner homicide rates. In contrast to the original research, we do not find significant effects of unilateral divorce on suicide and intimate homicide rates. Finally, I explore divorce and crime within Cook County, Illinois. Divorce in the United States is a common phenomena with the most recent estimates indicating that 35 percent of adults over 20 have been divorced at least once (Mayol-Garc ́ıa et al., 2021). Two of the main consequences of divorce are income and social exclusion. These, in turn, have been shown to be determinants of the propensity to commit crime (Buonanno and Bicocca, 2021). This paper investigates the impact of divorce on the propensity to commit crime using individual level data. Utilizing the random assignment of judges and their calendars in Cook County, Illinois to divorce cases, I measure the impact of a longer case on an individuals’ propensity to commit low-level crimes. This paper finds that longer divorce cases increase an individual’s likelihood of committing low-level crimes by up to 16 % over the mean when a case length is increased by 100 days.

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