When Reality TV Creates Reality: How "Copaganda" Affects Police, Communities, and Viewers. [Paper]

Abstract: Television shows with police officer protagonists are ubiquitous on American television. Both fictional shows and reality shows portray a world where criminals are nearly always apprehended. However, this is a distortion of reality, as crimes mostly go unsolved and police officers infrequently make arrests. What does the omnipresence of this genre mean for the general public's conception of police, for the practice of policing, and for the communities being policed? I use department-level and officer-level arrest data to find that arrests for low-level, victimless crimes increase by 20 percent while departments film with reality television shows, concentrated in the officers actively followed by cameras. These arrests do not meaningfully improve public safety and come at the cost of the local public's confidence. I then document quasi-experimentally and experimentally that these shows particularly their overrepresentation of arrestsimprove non-constituent viewer attitudes towards and beliefs about the police. The results are consistent with "copaganda" shows inflating trust in police nationally while subjecting some to harsher but not more effective enforcement. I consider the implications for police reform.
News Coverage: Slate, ePODstemology


Bias-Motivated Updating in the Labor Market. 2022. [Paper] [Part I Survey] [Part II Survey] [Part II Follow-Up Survey]

Abstract: In the canonical economics literature on discrimination, it is assumed that statistical discrimination based on inaccurate beliefs will not persist since agents have clear incentives to update as Bayesians based on accurate information. However, if beliefs about group productivity are driven by bias rather than by an agnostic lack of information, agents may be resistant to updating in the face of accurate information that contradicts stereotypes. In this experiment, I ask Prolific workers to report their beliefs about and make incentive-compatible wage offers to other workers based on anonymized resumes both before and after providing noisily accurate signals about performance by various groups. I find that these employers’ response to information about the labor market productivity of Black and White workers is a function of their implicit biases. Employers with stronger implicit biases against Black workers update their beliefs more in response to signals that are consistent with their biases (i.e. that imply the racial gap in productivity is higher than it really is) than they do in response to signals that are inconsistent (i.e. that imply the racial gap in productivity is smaller or even reversed). The existence of such bias-motivated asymmetric updating suggests that providing information about the labor market productivity of historically stigmatized groups may not be sufficient on its own to correct inaccurate beliefs or end inaccurate statistical discrimination.


Background Check Adjudication & Fair Chance Hiring. (with Amanda Agan & David Autor)

Sticky Stereotypes: Inaccurate Beliefs and Observability. (with Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman)


Property Valuation in Larcenies.

Restructuring Prosecutorial Incentives: Incorporating Mercy into Our Definition of Public Safety.


Council of Economic Advisers (2014-16)

Wellesley College (2014)

A Decade Later: An Evaluation of the Longer-Term Impacts of a Honduran Conditional Cash Transfer