Three Essays in Public Economics
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This dissertation consists of three separate papers in the field of public economics. In the first substantive chapter, I examine several factors that affect public sentiment on the death penalty, including individual characteristics as well as state-level measures of exonerations, executions, and botched executions. Using comprehensive data from the General Social Survey, the National Registry of Exonerations, and the Death Penalty Information Center, I find that exonerations significantly decrease the probability of supporting the death penalty by two to three percent from the average level. Nonetheless, neither executions nor botched executions seem to have an impact. I also investigate if there are significant changes in the criminal justice system associated with having more exonerations and find that they decrease the number of death sentences. In the second substantive chapter (coauthored with Benjamin Hansen and Glen Waddell), I investigate the effect of benefit generosity on claim duration and temporary benefits paid among temporary disability claims for workers' compensation. While previous studies have focused on natural experiments created by one-time large changes in minimum or maximum weekly benefits, we exploit variation around a kink in benefit generosity inherent in all workers' compensation systems in the United States. Using administrative data on the universe of injured workers in Oregon, we find that more-generous benefits leads to longer injuries, but with implied elasticities that are smaller than the average elasticity from previous difference-in-difference studies. Our preferred estimates suggest that a 10-percent increase in benefit generosity leads to a 2- to 4-percent increase in injury duration. We derive similar duration-benefit elasticities when studying changes in benefits paid at the kink. In the third substantive chapter, I revisit the subject of measuring the impact of benefit generosity in workers' compensation program in Oregon, but this time I utilize a different econometric model: difference-in-differences. The research design takes advantage of a large increase in maximum benefit for injured workers in Oregon beginning January 1, 2002. Before this date, the threshold for maximum benefit was set at 100% of the state's average weekly wage. The threshold increased to 133% of the state's average weekly wage after this date. I examine how this significant increase in benefit generosity affects injury duration, claim cost, and claim filling behavior and find that injury duration and probability of filing a claim are not influenced by increasing benefit generosity while costs go up by the same percentage as benefit generosity. This dissertation includes unpublished co-authored material.