Over at Conglomerate, Fred Tung reports his impression of a strong empirical trend at this year's ALEA meeting. I agree. Every panel I attended had between one and three empirical papers. From my perspective, there was some very high-end applied econometrics on display. The phrase "robustness check" seemed to echo through the halls of the UC Clark Kerr Campus.
Here are some of the empirical papers that I particularly enjoyed (in the order they were presented):
- Daniel Berkowitz, Chris Bonneau & Karen Clay, "Judicial Independence, Elections, and Minority Interests," which provided evidence that state court judges are more likely to rule for minority interests (in this sample, disputes involving students with diabilities) after elimination of judicial elections.
- Charles Silver, Kathryn Zeiler, Bernie Black, David Hyman, & William Sage, "'You Can't Get Blood From a Stone': Physicians' Insuring Practices and Payments on Medical Malpractice Claims," which documented several interesting patterns in medical malpractice litigation (in this sample, Texas), including the high likelihood of settling at insurance caps and the diminution of caps in (real dollars) during the last two decades. Because this study portends a future of reduced or no personal liability for doctors, the follow-up studys from this data set are likely to be very interesting and important. [no link]
- Ronen Avraham & Max Schanzenbach, "An Empirical Study of the Impact of Tort Reforms on Health Insurance Coverage," which was a very clever time-series analysis that showed a relation between tort reform legislation and higher rates of insurance coverage (i.e. fewer uninsured). Although the effect is not large, it does corroborate the idea that fewer successful lawsuits = less defensive medicine = lower insurance costs = more people with insurance. [no link]
- Theodore Eisenberg & Geoffrey P. Miller, "Incentive Awards to Class Action Plaintiffs: An Empirical Study," which showed that payments to lead plaintiffs were much more common in cases that typically involve small damages (e.g. consumer credit class actions), thus offsetting the potentially large nonpecuniary costs of being a litigant. This pattern is generally good if we want optimal levels of deterence from class action litigation.
- Michael A. Perino, "The Impact of Competition and Experience on Attorneys' Fees in Securities Class Actions," which empirically explored how competition to be lead plaintiffs lawyer (through auctions or PSLRA reforms) and judicial experience with class actions are generally associated with lower attorneys' fee requests and payments.
- Jonathan Klick & Eric Helland, "The Impact of Attorney Compensation on the Timing of Settlement," which used a very clever research design and methodology to show how the method of calculating attorneys' fees for class action lawyers--lodestar versus percentage of common fund--interacts with the timing of settlement.
- Ehud Kamar, Pinar Karaca-Mandic, & Eric Talley, "Going-Private Decisions and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002: A Cross-Country Analysis," which used a natural experiment approach to show the likelihood that small cap U.S. companies were more likely to be acquired by a private company, presumably because SOX compliance costs depressed their market price.
- ·Stephane Mechoulan, "The Impact of African-American Male Incarceration Rates of Young African American Females' Fertility, Schooling and Employment in the U.S., 1978-present," which covered exactly what the title suggests. [no link]
- ·Kate Litvak, "The Effect of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act on Non-US Companies Listed in the U.S.," which was an extremely well-done event study that used a natural experiment approach to capture the market reaction to SOX (it was generally negative). In the last couple of years, Kate, who does not have a PhD, has spent a lot of time learning sophisticated econometric techniques. It really showed. Very impressive (and easy to follow) presentation.
Two non-empirical papers I really enjoyed were (1) Gillian Hadfield, "The Quality of Law in Civil Code and Common Law Regimes: Judicial Incentives, Legal Human Capital and the Evolution of Law," which used a simple, elegant mathematical model to show how institutional incentives and the accumulation of judicial knowledge affect the evolution of new legal rules; and (2) Jason S. Johnston, "Centralization versus Decentralization in the Regulation and Management of Large-Scale Risks," which shed considerable light on how local versus national (or global) incentives affect the allocation of resources to deal with large scale risks (here, think terrorism or Katrina, the two examples used by Jason). Rents paid to contractors in non-target jurisdictions play a big part in this analysis.