Working Papers

Safer Sex?

The Effect of AIDS Risk on Birth Rates

Job Market Paper

The emergence of AIDS in the 1980s dramatically increased the cost of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Prior research shows that people responded to the AIDS epidemic by switching to sexual behaviors and contraceptive methods with lower likelihood of AIDS transmission. These behavioral adjustments also affect the likelihood of pregnancy and the incidence of other STIs. This paper provides the first evidence that the AIDS epidemic in the United States increased the birth rate and the abortion rate, and decreased the gonorrhea rate. I show that births among adult women increased on average by 0.5 births per 1,000 women per year, for a total of 330,000 additional births between 1981 and 2001 due to AIDS avoidance behaviors. My analysis suggests that the overall estimates are driven by women who avoid AIDS by shifting to monogamous relationships.

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COVID-19 and Domestic Violence

Effects of COVID-19 Shutdowns on Domestic Violence in US Cities
NBER Working Paper No. 29429

with Amalia Miller and Carmit Segal

We empirically investigate the impact of COVID-19 shutdowns on domestic violence using incident-level data on both domestic-related calls for service and crime reports of domestic violence assaults from the 18 major US police departments for which both types of records are available. Although we confirm prior reports of an increase in domestic calls for service at the start of the pandemic, we find that the increase preceded mandatory shutdowns, and there was an incremental decline following the government imposition of restrictions. We find no evidence that domestic violence crimes increased. Rather, domestic violence assaults declined significantly during the initial shutdown period and there was no significant change in intimate partner homicides in these months. Our results fail to support claims that shutdowns increased domestic violence and suggest caution before drawing inference or basing policy on calls data alone.

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COVID-19 and Domestic Violence in LA

Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Domestic Violence in Los Angeles
NBER Working Paper No. 28068

with Amalia Miller and Carmit Segal

Around the world, policymakers and news reports have warned that domestic violence (DV) could increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant restrictions on individual mobility and commercial activity. However, both anecdotal accounts and academic research have found inconsistent effects of the pandemic on DV across measures and cities. We use highfrequency, real-time data from Los Angeles on 911 calls, crime incidents, arrests, and calls to a DV hotline to study the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns on DV. We find conflicting effects within that single city and even across measures from the same source. We also find varying effects between the initial shutdown period and the one following the initial re-opening. DV calls to police and to the hotline increased during the initial shutdown, but DV crimes decreased, as did arrests for those crimes. The period following re-opening showed a continued decrease in DV crimes and arrests, as well as decreases in calls to the police and to the hotline. Our results highlight the heterogeneous effects of the pandemic across DV measures and caution against relying on a single data type or source.

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In Progress

Abortion Counseling Laws

The Effects of Abortion Counseling Laws

with Rebecca Brough

Nearly two-thirds of states have abortion counseling laws requiring that women receive and acknowledge state-mandated information prior to giving their informed consent for abortion. The mandated information varies widely across states and may include scientifically inaccurate statements regarding the risks of abortion, illustrations of fetuses, or ultrasound requirements. Despite the ubiquity of these laws, little is known about the effect of counseling laws on women’s abortion decisions and birth rates. We compile a novel dataset of state-level abortion counseling laws and define a classification system for these laws, including fetal-focused counseling, risk-focused counseling, ultrasound requirements, and ultrasound display requirements. Using this novel dataset, we analyze the effect of abortion counseling laws on county-level birth rates. We find evidence that counseling laws affect birth rates, and show that effects are heterogeneous across type of counseling law as well as demographic groups.

Tasers and Fatal Police Encounters

The Effect of Tasers on Fatal Police Encounters

There are over 1,000 fatal police encounters per year in the United States, and an estimated 28,000 people have died during encounters with law enforcement since the year 2000. To decrease fatal encounters, police have sought weapons which can safely incapacitate people while they are taken into custody. One such weapon is the Conducted Energy Device (CED), better known by the brand name Taser. This research evaluates the effect of Tasers on fatal police encounters. I estimate the effect of Tasers on fatal police encounters using two approaches. First, I use state-level and agency-level data on fatal police encounters from 2000 to 2019 to analyze the effect of Taser restrictions on fatal encounters. I identify the causal effect of Tasers by exploiting circuit court rulings which required agencies in some states to limit Taser use to situations where people are actively aggressing. Second, I use a novel data set on agency-level Taser policies. I compiled data on Taser policies from 2000 to 2019 for the 50 largest local police departments in the United States. For each agency, I observe when they started using Tasers, when they issued Tasers to all patrol officers (if applicable), and the agency’s use-of-force policy in every year. I merge this information with data on fatal police encounters to evaluate the effect of Taser adoption and Taser polices on fatal police encounters. Identification comes from plausibly exogenous events that affected Taser adoption and polices such as court rulings, state law changes, and 9/11.