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Empirical studies

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University of Michigan Law School

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Full-Text Articles in Law

Expungement Of Criminal Convictions: An Empirical Study, J.J. Prescott, Sonja B. Starr May 2020

Expungement Of Criminal Convictions: An Empirical Study, J.J. Prescott, Sonja B. Starr

Articles

Laws permitting the expungement of criminal convictions are a key component of modern criminal justice reform efforts and have been the subject of a recent upsurge in legislative activity. This debate has been almost entirely devoid of evidence about the laws’ effects, in part because the necessary data (such as sealed records themselves) have been unavailable. We were able to obtain access to de-identified data that overcome that problem, and we use it to carry out a comprehensive statewide study of expungement recipients and comparable nonrecipients in Michigan. We offer three key sets of empirical findings. First, among those legally …


Understanding Violent-Crime Recidivism, J.J. Prescott, Benjamin Pyle, Sonja B. Starr May 2020

Understanding Violent-Crime Recidivism, J.J. Prescott, Benjamin Pyle, Sonja B. Starr

Articles

People convicted of violent crimes constitute a majority of the imprisoned population but are generally ignored by existing policies aimed at reducing mass incarceration. Serious efforts to shrink the large footprint of the prison system will need to recognize this fact. This point is especially pressing at the time of this writing, as states and the federal system consider large-scale prison releases motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those convicted of violent crimes constitute a large majority of older prisoners, who are extremely vulnerable to the spread of the virus behind bars. Excluding them from protective measures will deeply undermine those …


Targeting Poverty In The Courts: Improving The Measurement Of Ability To Pay Fines, Meghan M. O'Neil, J.J. Prescott Jan 2019

Targeting Poverty In The Courts: Improving The Measurement Of Ability To Pay Fines, Meghan M. O'Neil, J.J. Prescott

Articles

Ability-to-pay determinations are essential when governments use money-based alternative sanctions, like fines, to enforce laws. One longstanding difficulty in the U.S. has been the extreme lack of guidance on how courts are to determine a litigant’s ability to pay. The result has been a seat-of-the-pants approach that is inefficient and inaccurate, and, as a consequence, very socially costly. Fortunately, online platform technology presents a promising avenue for reform. In particular, platform technology offers the potential to increase litigant access, reduce costs, and ensure consistent and fair treatment—all of which should lead to more accurate sanctions. We use interviews, surveys, and …


Improving Access To Justice In State Courts With Platform Technology, J. J. Prescott Nov 2017

Improving Access To Justice In State Courts With Platform Technology, J. J. Prescott

Articles

Access to justice often equates to access to state courts, and for millions of Americans, using state courts to resolve their disputes—often with the government—is a real challenge. Reforms are regularly proposed in the hopes of improving the situation (e.g., better legal aid), but until recently a significant part of the problem has been structural. Using state courts today for all but the simplest of legal transactions entails at the very least traveling to a courthouse and meeting with a decision maker in person and in a one-on-one setting. Even minimally effective access, therefore, requires time, transportation, and very often …


Portmanteau Ascendant: Post-Release Regulations And Sex Offender Recidivism, J. J. Prescott Jan 2016

Portmanteau Ascendant: Post-Release Regulations And Sex Offender Recidivism, J. J. Prescott

Articles

The purported purpose of sex offender post-release regulations (e.g., community notification and residency restrictions) is the reduction of sex offender recidivism. On their face, these laws seem well-designed and likely to be effective. A simple economic framework of offender behavior can be used to formalize these basic intuitions: in essence, post-release regulations either increase the probability of detection or increase the immediate cost of engaging in the prohibited activity (or both), and so should reduce the likelihood of criminal behavior. These laws aim to incapacitate people outside of prison. Yet, empirical researchers to date have found essentially no reliable evidence …


Racial Disparity In Federal Criminal Sentences, M. Marit Rehavi, Sonja B. Starr Dec 2014

Racial Disparity In Federal Criminal Sentences, M. Marit Rehavi, Sonja B. Starr

Articles

Using rich data linking federal cases from arrest through to sentencing, we find that initial case and defendant characteristics, including arrest offense and criminal history, can explain most of the large raw racial disparity in federal sentences, but significant gaps remain. Across the distribution, blacks receive sentences that are almost 10 percent longer than those of comparable whites arrested for the same crimes. Most of this disparity can be explained by prosecutors’ initial charging decisions, particularly the filing of charges carrying mandatory minimum sentences. Ceteris paribus, the odds of black arrestees facing such a charge are 1.75 times higher than …


Sex Offender Law And The Geography Of Victimization, Amanda Y. Agan, J. J. Prescott Dec 2014

Sex Offender Law And The Geography Of Victimization, Amanda Y. Agan, J. J. Prescott

Articles

Sex offender laws that target recidivism (e.g., community notification and residency restriction regimes) are premised—at least in part—on the idea that sex offender proximity and victimization risk are positively correlated. We examine this relationship by combining past and current address information of registered sex offenders (RSOs) with crime data from Baltimore County, Maryland, to study how crime rates vary across neighborhoods with different concentrations of resident RSOs. Contrary to the assumptions of policymakers and the public, we find that, all else equal, reported sex offense victimization risk is generally (although not uniformly) lower in neighborhoods where more RSOs live. To …


Evidence-Based Sentencing And The Scientific Rationalization Of Discrimination, Sonja B. Starr Jan 2014

Evidence-Based Sentencing And The Scientific Rationalization Of Discrimination, Sonja B. Starr

Articles

This Article critiques, on legal and empirical grounds, the growing trend of basing criminal sentences on actuarial recidivism risk prediction instruments that include demographic and socioeconomic variables. I argue that this practice violates the Equal Protection Clause and is bad policy: an explicit embrace of otherwise- condemned discrimination, sanitized by scientific language. To demonstrate that this practice raises serious constitutional concerns, I comprehensively review the relevant case law, much of which has been ignored by existing literature. To demonstrate that the policy is not justified by countervailing state interests, I review the empirical evidence underlying the instruments. I show that …


The Rise In Elder Bankruptcy Filings And The Failure Of U.S. Bankruptcy Law, John A. E. Pottow Jan 2011

The Rise In Elder Bankruptcy Filings And The Failure Of U.S. Bankruptcy Law, John A. E. Pottow

Articles

Recent empirical legal scholarship on the consumer bankruptcy system has uncovered a marked rise in the proportion of elder Americans filing for relief under the Bankruptcy Code. But these studies have not probed the reasons behind that rise, an omission this Article seeks to address. Professor John Pottow and colleagues recently assembled the new dataset of the Consumer Bankruptcy Project (CBP), the largest national sample of consumer debtors in this country, which he uses to explore the sources of elder bankruptcy. The findings are both striking and ominous. While multiple factors, such as health problems and medical debts, contribute to …


Third-Party Tax Administration: The Case Of Low- And Moderate-Income Households, Michael S. Barr, Jane K. Dokko Jan 2008

Third-Party Tax Administration: The Case Of Low- And Moderate-Income Households, Michael S. Barr, Jane K. Dokko

Articles

Using a unique household-level data set, this article investigates the taxfiling experiences and refund behavior of low- and moderate-income (LMI) households. We document households' tax-filing behavior, attitudes about the withholding system, use of tax refunds to consume and save, and the mechanisms by which households would prefer to receive their income. We also document the prevalence of the use of tax-preparation services and the receipt of tax refunds and refund-anticipation loans. Finally, we argue that there may be a role for tax administration to enable LMI households to make welfare-improving financial decisions.


Tax Preparation Services For Low- And Moderate-Income Households: Preliminary Evidence From A New Survey, Michael S. Barr, Jane K. Dokko Jan 2006

Tax Preparation Services For Low- And Moderate-Income Households: Preliminary Evidence From A New Survey, Michael S. Barr, Jane K. Dokko

Articles

Recently, researchers have begun to examine the financial service patterns of low- and moderate-income households. These behaviors are of interest because high cost financial services, barriers to saving, the lack of insurance, and credit constraints contribute to poverty and other socioeconomic conditions . Many low- and moderate-income households use alterna­tive financial service (AFS) providers, such as check cashers, for their financial services needs. Tax preparation firms are among the important financial service providers in the lives of low-income households. Such firms help households navigate the complicated process of filing their taxes, and many low-income households obtain sizeable tax refunds. At …


Tax Filing Experiences And Withholding Preferences Of Low- And Moderate-Income Households Preliminary Evidence From A New Survey, Michael S. Barr, Jane Dokko Jan 2006

Tax Filing Experiences And Withholding Preferences Of Low- And Moderate-Income Households Preliminary Evidence From A New Survey, Michael S. Barr, Jane Dokko

Other Publications

The United States Federal income tax code has an enormous potential to shape the economic and financial decisions of taxpaying households. Tax rates, compliance laws, and the withholding system create incentives, as do the methods by which the Treasury collects tax receipts and disburses tax refunds. The role of third party service providers in this incentive structure is less well understood, even though tax preparation firms play important roles in our tax system. Nationally, more than half of taxpayers use paid preparers to submit their tax returns. Low- and moderate-income (LMI) households are among those who use the paid tax …


25 Divorce Attorneys And 40 Clients In Two Not So Big But Not So Small Cities In Massachusetts And California: An Appreciation, David L. Chambers Jan 1997

25 Divorce Attorneys And 40 Clients In Two Not So Big But Not So Small Cities In Massachusetts And California: An Appreciation, David L. Chambers

Reviews

Jane is meeting with her lawyer Peter. She has been complaining bitterly about a restraining order obtained ex parte by the lawyer for her husband Norb. The order bars her from entering the home that she still owns jointly with Norb and that Norb has continued to live in. She moved out voluntarily, as a gesture of good will, a short while before only to have her husband's lawyer run to court and secure the order she abhors. Readers first met Jane back in 1986 when Austin Sarat and William Felstiner published the first article growing out of their massive …


State Responses To Task Force Reports On Race And Ethnic Bias In The Courts, Suellyn Scarnecchia Jan 1993

State Responses To Task Force Reports On Race And Ethnic Bias In The Courts, Suellyn Scarnecchia

Articles

While several states have embarked on studies of race and ethnic bias in their courts, Minnesota is only the sixth to publish its report to date. As Minnesota joins the ranks of states with published reports, it is worthwhile to assess the impact of the five earlier published reports from other states. Final reports have been published in Michigan (1989), Washington (1990), New York (1991), Florida (1991) and New Jersey (1992). The published reports make findings and provide several specific recommendations for change. This article will review the published findings and recommendations of the task forces and will discuss the …


The Burdens Of Educational Loans: The Impacts Of Debt On Job Choice And Standards Of Living For Students At Nine American Law Schools, David L. Chambers Jan 1992

The Burdens Of Educational Loans: The Impacts Of Debt On Job Choice And Standards Of Living For Students At Nine American Law Schools, David L. Chambers

Articles

American law students are borrowing large sums of money. For graduates at many schools, cumulative debts of $40,000 from college and law school have become the norm, and debts of $50,000, $60,000, and even more are common. The sums students are borrowing are much larger today than they were ten years ago, even after adjusting for increases in the cost of living. They have risen at a considerably faster pace than the starting salaries at small law firms and government agencies. They have even risen at a faster pace than the starting salaries in many large firms. The new pattern …


Accommodation And Satisfaction: Women And Men Lawyers And The Balance Of Work And Family, David L. Chambers Jan 1989

Accommodation And Satisfaction: Women And Men Lawyers And The Balance Of Work And Family, David L. Chambers

Articles

This study of graduates of the University of Michigan Law School from the late 1970s reports on the differing ways that women and men have responded to the conflicting claims of work and family. It finds that women with children who have entered the profession have indeed continued to bear the principalr esponsibilitiesf or the care of children, but it alsof inds that these women, with all their burdens, are more satisfied with their careers and with the balance of their family and professional lives than other women and than men.