Hello! I’m a JD/PhD candidate. I study how legal institutions affect economic and social inequality, particularly along racial/ethnic lines. My dissertation and current research examine the effects of democratic institutions and criminal justice systems. I can be reached at aneja *at* berkeley.edu.
Law: Election Law, Criminal Justice, Law & Economics, Law & Inequality Comparative Law, Local/State Governance
Economics: Political Economics, Labor Economics, Econ. History, Consumer Finance, Development
Working Papers / Works in Progress
The Effect of Political Power on Labor Market Inequality: Evidence from the 1965 Voting Rights Act (with Carlos Avenancio-Leon) Link
Summary: A central concern for racial and ethnic minorities is having an equal opportunity to advance group interests via the political process. There remains limited empirical evidence, however, whether democratic policies designed to foster political equality are connected causally to social and economic equality. In this paper, we examine whether and how the expansion of minority voting rights contributes to advances in minorities’ economic interests. Specifically, we consider how the political re-enfranchisement of black Americans in the U.S. South, stemming from the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), contributed to improvements in their relative economic status during the 1960s and 1970s. Using spatial and temporal variation arising from the federal enforcement provision of the VRA, we document that counties where voting rights were more strongly protected experienced larger reductions in the black-white wage gap between 1950 and 1980. We then show how the VRA’s effect on the relative wages of black Americans operates through two demand-side channels. First, the VRA contributed to the expansion of public employment opportunities. Second, in line with previous work on the importance of civil rights laws, the VRA contributed to and complemented the enforcement of labor market policies such as affirmative action and anti-discrimination laws.
Credit-Driven Crime Cycles: Incarceration and Access to Credit (with Carlos Avenancio-Leon) Link
Summary: Incarceration directly affects a meaningful share of the U.S. adult population, and affects society at large through its effects on future criminal activity. In this paper, we document a financial channel that underlies the criminal cycle. Specifically, we show that incarceration significantly reduces access to credit that in turn leads to substantial increases in recidivism, creating a perverse feedback loop. In the first part of the analysis, we use the random assignment of criminal cases to courtrooms to document significant post-release reductions in credit and in credit scores. In terms of mechanisms driving this effect, we find that reductions in labor income for ex-convicts spillover into credit markets because lenders, who use income to screen applicants, are unable to form reliable estimates of default risk. Moreover, ex-convicts’ inability to service their debt while incarcerated further affects credit flows to ex-convicts below the full-information benchmark. In the second part of the paper, we use a regression discontinuity design to show that this loss of access feeds back into higher recidivism rates. Our analysis thus highlights one way that the crime-reduction goal of incarceration is undermined by the financial distortions that imprisonment creates.
Minority Political Representation and Protection from Racial Violence: Evidence from Caste-based Political Parties in India (with S.K. Ritadhi) Link
Summary: This paper examines whether minority political representation increases protection from targeted racial violence. We answer this question using the rise of political parties dedicated to representing Scheduled Castes and Tribes in India. We combine contest-level electoral data with targeted crime outcomes to estimate the relationship between political representation for racial/ethnic minorities and the incidence of racially-motivated crime. To address the endogenous selection of minority political candidates, we exploit variation in representation arising from close elections involving caste-based political parties. We find that the political representation of historically underrepresented caste groups reduces the incidence of targeted violent crimes by between five and fourteen percent. We also find that minority-favored politicians reduce criminal violence through deterrence induced by changes in how the law enforcement/criminal justice bureaucracy function (in part augmented by improved attitudes of SC/ST constituents toward state institutions that affect the enforcement of criminal law).
How Corporate Debt Perpetuates Labor Market Disparities: The Link Between Capital Structure, Unemployment, and Wages (with Carlos Avenancio-Leon)
Summary: We study financial leverage as a transmission mechanism for unemployment risk in labor markets. While high firm-specific leverage increases workers’ risk of unemployment, and compensation for it, high aggregate firm leverage affects the worker’s outside option—other firms—putting downward pressure on wages. Because bargaining compensation for unemployment risk/outside option must increase during downturns/upturns, firms dampen fluctuations in wages using leverage, amplifying fluctuations in unemployment as a byproduct. This wage-unemployment risk trade-off has far-reaching consequences for redistribution which we test for using anti-discrimination reforms during the Civil Rights Movement.
Right-to-Carry Laws and Violent Crime: A Comprehensive Assessment (with John Donohue and Kyle Webber) Link
Summary: The 2005 report of the National Research Council (NRC) on Firearms and Violence recognized that violent crime was higher in the post-passage period (relative to national crime patterns) for states adopting right-to-carry (RTC) concealed handgun laws, but because of model dependence the panel was unable to identify the true causal effect of these laws from the then-existing panel data evidence. This study uses 14 additional years of panel data (through 2014) capturing an additional 11 RTC adoptions and new statistical techniques to see if more convincing and robust conclusions can emerge. Using a variety of methods, we document consistent estimates showing RTC laws increase overall violent crime and/or murder when run on the most complete data. The magnitude of the estimated increase in violent crime from RTC laws is substantial in that, using a consensus estimate for the elasticity of crime with respect to incarceration of .15, the average RTC state would have to double its prison population to counteract the RTC-induced increase in violent crime.
The Impact of Right-to-Carry Laws and the NRC Report: Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy, American Law and Economics Review (w/ John J. Donohue and Alex Zhang) Link
Disenfranchisement and Economic Inequality: Downstream Effects of Shelby County v. Holder, AEA Papers & Proceedings (forthcoming, with Carlos Avenancio-Leon)