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Current Research.

My current projects include the following:

 

​“Are Lawyers' Case Selection Decisions Biased? A Field Experiment on Access to Justice”

With Michael A. Livermore

The lawyer-client relationship is pivotal in providing access to courts. Frequently, the ability to retain a lawyer constitutes a sine-qua-non for a successful claim. This paper presents results from a large-scale field experiment exploring how demographic information (encoded in potential clients' names) affects how attorneys respond to initial inquiries in private injury cases. We show that ostensibly Black or Hispanic prospective clients receive fewer responses than ostensibly White senders. These effects are larger than those previously documented in contexts such as public services, but smaller than those in the employment context. In apparent contrast to previous findings, our results are largely driven by a preferential treatment of senders who are White and female. Our analysis further suggests that White attorneys are more likely than others to treat White senders preferentially, implying that the differences in response rates are not merely a reaction to jurisdiction-level factors affecting the expected payoff of lawsuits.

​“Incomplete Contracts and Future Data Usage”

 

With Talia Gillis and Dan Svirsky

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the most comprehensive and far-reaching privacy regulatory regime remains a puzzle, both with respect to its empirical effect and its theoretical underpinnings. We argue that at its core, the GDPR creates a two-part mandate for privacy policies, requiring (1) that residual rights over data usage be assigned to consumers and (2) a heightened modification rule. We adapt standard models of incomplete contracts to show that the joint impact of these two requirements depends on a single parameter summarizing how consumers discount future privacy harms. We then use the model to explain how U.S. firms responded to the GDPR. We show that U.S. websites with E.U. exposure are more likely to change their U.S. privacy policies to have less stringent and more lenient modification rules. Among websites that do not have E.U. exposure we see the opposite trend. These results are explained by websites seeking to obtain residual rights over data usage after learning of the impact of the GDPR mandate.

​“Sex and Startups”

With Talia Gillis and Eric Talley

Venture Capital (VC) has a gender problem. The sector has long been (and still is) dominated by men on both the investor and recipient sides, and this imbalance is thought to affect who gets to play, who gets funded, and who gets left behind. Nevertheless, reliable data about early-stage startups remain sparse, and we still know surprisingly little about whether (and how) internal cash-flow and governance entitlements within startups manifest gender effects. This paper develops and studies a unique data set that tracks VC-backed startups along both financial and governance dimensions. It allows us to observe how cash flow and control rights emerge and evolve through successive rounds of startup funding, as well as the detailed structure and evolution of governance provisions that regulate internal corporate affairs. We use this resource to assess whether the gender of a startup’s founder predicts differential financial and/or governance terms that regulate, enable, and (by turns) frustrate founders’ discretion in relation to their VC investors. Our still-preliminary findings are mixed: On the one hand, female founders in our sample do not appear to face capital structures or cash flow entitlements that differ substantially from a matched sample of similarly situated firms with male founders, at least with respect to the narrow set of variables our data currently include. However, we find evidence that the firm governance provisions female founders face (as captured by the latent content of corporate charters) differs measurably from matched male.