Recent Research

  • WP 2023

    John Eric Humphries, Aurelie Ouss, Megan Stevenson, Kamelia Stavreva, and Winnie van Dijk

    We study the effects of conviction and incarceration on recidivism using quasi-random judge assignment. We extend the typical binary-treatment framework to a setting with multiple treatments, and outline a set of assumptions under which standard 2SLS regressions recover causal and margin-specific treatment effects. Under these assumptions, 2SLS regressions applied to data on felony cases in Virginia imply that conviction leads to a large and long-lasting increase in recidivism relative to dismissal, consistent with a criminogenic effect of a criminal record. In contrast, incarceration reduces recidivism, but only in the short run. The assumptions we outline could be considered restrictive in the random judge framework, ruling out some reasonable models of judge decision-making. Indeed, a key assumption is empirically rejected in our data. Nevertheless, after deriving an expression for the resulting asymptotic bias, we argue that the failure of this assumption is unlikely to overturn our qualitative conclusions. Finally, we propose and implement alternative identification strategies. Consistent with our characterization of the bias, these analyses yield estimates qualitatively similar to those based on the 2SLS estimates. Taken together, our results suggest that conviction is an important and potentially overlooked driver of recidivism, while incarceration mainly has shorter-term incapacitation effects.

    [Revise and resubmit at the Quarterly Journal of Economics]

  • QJE 2023

    Robert Collinson, John Eric Humphries, Nicholas Mader, Davin Reed, Daniel Tannenbaum, Winnie van Dijk

    More than two million U.S. households have an eviction case filed against them each year. Policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels are increasingly pursuing policies to reduce the number of evictions, citing harm to tenants and high public expenditures related to homelessness. We study the consequences of eviction for tenants using newly linked administrative data from two major urban areas: Cook County (which includes Chicago) and New York City. We document that prior to housing court, tenants experience declines in earnings and employment and increases in financial distress and hospital visits. These pre-trends pose a challenge for disentangling correlation and causation. To address this problem, we use an instrumental variables approach based on cases randomly assigned to judges of varying leniency. We find that an eviction order increases homelessness and hospital visits and reduces earnings, durable goods consumption, and access to credit in the first two years. Effects on housing and labor market outcomes are driven by impacts for female and Black tenants. In the longer-run, eviction increases indebtedness and reduces credit scores.
    [Forthcoming at the Quarterly Journal of Economics]
  • AEA P&P 2022

    Lenka Fiala, John Eric Humphries, Juanna Schroter Joensen, Uditi Karna, John A. List, and Gregory F. Veramendi

    Leveraging data from Sweden and Chicago, we study the educational pipeline for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and economics majors to better understand the determinants of the gender gap and when these determinants arise. We present three findings. First, females are less likely to select STEM courses in high school despite equal or better preparation. Second, there are important gender differences in preferences and beliefs, even conditional on ability. Third, early differences in preferences and beliefs explain more of the gaps in high school sorting than other candidate variables. High school sorting then explains a large portion of the gender difference in college majors.
  • JDE 2022

    Maria Elena Guerrero-Amezaga, John Eric Humphries, Christopher A. Neilson, Naomi Shimberg, and Gabriel Ulyssea

    This paper studies the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses between March and November 2020 using new survey data on 35,000 small businesses in eight Latin American countries. We document that the pandemic had large negative impacts on employment and beliefs regarding the future, which in turn predict meaningful economic outcomes in the medium-term. Despite the unprecedented amount of aid, policies had limited impact for small and informal firms. These firms were less aware of programs, applied less, and received less assistance. This may have lasting consequences, as businesses that received aid reported better outcomes and expectations about the future.
  • JPubE 2020

    John Eric Humphries, Christopher A. Neilson, and Gabriel Ulyssea.

    The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) extended 669 billion dollars of forgivable loans in an unprecedented effort to support small businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis. This paper provides evidence that information frictions and the "first-come, first-served" design of the PPP program skewed its resources towards larger firms and may have permanently reduced its effectiveness. Using new daily survey data on small businesses in the U.S., we show that the smallest businesses were less aware of the PPP and less likely to apply. If they did apply, the smallest businesses applied later, faced longer processing times, and were less likely to have their application approved. These frictions may have mattered, as businesses that received aid report fewer layoffs, higher employment, and improved expectations about the future.
  • JPE 2018

    James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries,and Gregory Veramendi, published in the Journal of Political Economy, 2018.

    This paper estimates returns to education using a dynamic model of educational choice that synthesizes approaches in the structural dynamic discrete choice literature with approaches used in the reduced form treatment effect literature. It is an empirically robust middle ground between the two approaches which estimates economically interpretable and policy-relevant dynamic treatment effects that account for heterogeneity in cognitive and non-cognitive skills and the continuation values of educational choices. Graduating college is not a wise choice for all. Ability bias is a major component of observed educational differentials. For some, there are substantial causal effects of education at all stages of schooling.