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In-group Favoritism and Peer Effects in Wrongful Acquittals: NBA Referees as Judges (with Naci Mocan)

Journal of Law and Economics, forthcoming

NBER Working Paper No. 29860, 2022

IZA Working Paper No. 15195, 2022

Media: Boston Globe

We provide the first analysis of racial in-group bias in Type-I and Type-II errors. Using player-referee matched data from NBA games we show that there is no overall racial bias or in-group bias in foul calls made by referees. Similarly, there is no racial bias or in-group bias in Type-I errors (incorrect foul calls). On the other hand, there is significant in-group favoritism in Type-II errors. These are wrongful acquittals where the referee did not blow the whistle although a foul was committed. We also analyze peer effects and find that black referees’ proclivity to make Type-II errors in favor of black players exists as long black referees have at least one black peer referee on the court, and that the bias disappears only if black referees have two white peers. In case of white referees, in-group favoritism in Type-II errors emerges if white referees have two black peers with them on the court. We provide evidence showing that the results are not attributable to skill differences between referees. We also show that a higher Type-I error rate during the season lowers referees’ probability to be selected to officiate a game in the playoffs, whereas variations in the rate of Type-II errors have no impact on the likelihood of a playoff assignment. These results indicate that in-group favoritism takes place in a domain which is not costly (making Type-II errors), and that bias is eliminated when it is costly to the decisionmaker.


Saving Daylight, Losing Lives: The Impact of Daylight Saving Time on Deaths from Suicide and Substance Abuse

Health Economics, 2022

Media: Deseret NewsOn Focus News

This paper estimates the impact of Daylight Saving Time (DST) on deaths of despair (DoD) in the United States. Using Multiple Cause-of-Death Mortality Data from the National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics from 1979-1988, the effect is identified in two ways: a regression discontinuity design (RDD) that exploits discrete time changes in the Spring and Fall; and a fixed effects model (FE) that is identified with a policy change and a switching mechanism that introduces random variation to DST's start and end dates. This is one of the first attempts to estimate the impact of DST on DoD and is the first to use either identification strategy. The results from both methods suggest that the sleep disruptions during the Spring transition cause suicide rates to rise by 6.25 percent and all DoD to increase by 6.59 percent. There is no evidence for any change in suicide or all DoD during the Fall transition. The contrasting results from Spring to Fall suggest the entire effect can be attributed to disruptions in sleep patterns rather than changes in ambient light exposure.

Mental Health and Academic Outcomes: Evidence from Honors College Students (with Jackie Kopel, Mohini Gobin, & Anna Shostya)

Empirical Economic Letters, 2023

This paper explores the relationship between mental health and post-secondary student outcomes. To do so, the authors use a fixed-effect model and a unique dataset on honors students’ academic performance and their mental health before and after starting college. The empirical results suggest that experiencing mental health issues while in college has a large, statistically significant, and negative effect on students’ cumulative grade point average (GPA) and the probability of their good standing with the Honors College. Additionally, the effect size is larger for students who began after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Effect of Minimum Wages on Time Allocation: Estimates Using Contiguous Counties

Unpublished Working Paper, 2020

Miminum wages not only change outcomes, but also incentives. If they substantially change market conditions, they may influence how young people make decisions about education and work to maximize their lifetime earnings. This paper estimates the impact of minimum wages on school enrollment, labor force participation, and idleness for people aged 16-19. Using the monthly release of the Current Population Survey for the years 1997 to 2016, the effect is identified by comparing outcomes in state-border-straddling county-pairs. This strategy represents an improvement over traditional methods used in minimum wage literature because it accounts for heterogeneous local labor market trends. The focus on this paper also represents a departure from the bulk of minimum wage literature, where the focus is on labor market outcomes. Here, the focus is on how minimum wages influence individual decision making. The results suggest minimum wages increase school enrollment, while the evidence for labor force participation and idleness is mixed and inconclusive.


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