Job Market Paper

  • Courting Legal Change: Dynamics of Voting on the U.S. Supreme Court 

The literature on the Supreme Court has used static models of voting to estimate the policy preferences of justices that largely ignore the role of precedent, a dynamic component in justices' decision-making process that could help explain part of their voting behavior. I formulate and structurally estimate a dynamic game-theoretic model of decision-making on the U.S. Supreme Court that can infer the preferences of individual justices over ideology versus the weight they place on respecting precedent. I find that justices who experience a high cost of deviating from precedent are more ideological when their votes are likely to be pivotal. Taking the model to data, I find that precedent plays a sizable role in explaining justices' voting behaviors with significant heterogeneity across justices and legal issues. Moreover, incorporating precedent in the analysis changes the ideology estimates for about one-third of the justices in the sample. I use these estimates to simulate counterfactual outcomes for policy proposals, such as court-packing and judicial term limits.


NHH Norwegian School of Economics Seminar, Feb 2021

Southern Economic Association Annual Meeting, Nov 2020

Midwest Economics Association Annual Meeting, Mar 2020 (canceled)

Work In Progress

Surprisingly little is known about the location of polling places across the United States and their effect on turnout. Current estimates of the effect of a mile increase in distance to the polling location on turnout range from a 14.5 p.p. reduction in turnout to a null effect. The question of how this cost of voting affects traditionally disenfranchised groups of voters remains. We acquire voter registration, voting history data, and polling locations for over 15 million voters from Pennsylvania and Georgia to fill this gap. We find small average effects of a voter’s distance to the polling place on turnout, but considerable heterogeneity. A one-mile increase in distance to polling place decreases the likelihood of voting up to 0.99 p.p. on average, but by up to 28 p.p. among those who take public transport to work. We find that the availability of no-excuse absentee voting may help significantly attenuate the reduction in turnout caused by distance to the polling place.


American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Sep 2019

In multi-candidate elections, past electoral outcomes may serve as a coordination device for strategic voters and as a bandwagon for behavioral voters who have a preference for voting for the winner. Both motivations working in tandem can amplify the effect of close wins on future electoral outcomes (Pons and Tricauld 2020). We use the novel setting provided by the Iowa Democratic presidential caucuses to test this hypothesis using a regression discontinuity design. We find that candidates who barely ranked first in the first round get a higher vote share (5.6 p.p.) in the second round and are more likely to win (12.5 p.p.), compared to those who barely ranked second. We find a similar increase (7.3 p.p.) in the vote share for candidates who barely ranked second in the first round compared to those who barely ranked third. The unique electoral rules that govern caucuses allow us to rule out alternative channels such as a change in the composition of the electorate, endogenous responses by candidates, and media coverage of winners. The results suggest that both coordination and behavioral motivations could play a significant role in determining electoral outcomes even in the context of high-stakes elections.