How Does Stop-and-Frisk Change Attitudes?

New York City's "stop-and-frisk" policy has been the subject of major debates and several lawsuits in recent months.  A new paper (gated) by Stephanie A. Wiley and Finn-Aage Esbensen analyzes the relationship between "police contact" and future attitudes and actual criminal acts among children and teens:

Current police policies are based on assumptions that proactive policing strategies will not only deter crime but will also improve police–community relations. Deterrence theorists argue that general and specific deterrence can be achieved through such policing strategies. Labeling proponents, however, maintain that juveniles stopped and/or arrested by the police, rather than be deterred, will actually engage in more delinquency as a result of this contact. Research to date has provided mixed evidence. The current study seeks to inform this debate by examining the effect of being stopped or arrested on subsequent delinquent behavior and attitudes. Relying on three waves of data from a multisite sample of youth, we use propensity score matching to control for preexisting differences among youth who have and have not experienced police contact. Our findings reveal that being stopped or arrested not only increases future delinquency but also amplifies deviant attitudes.

The BPS Research Digest elaborates:

The key finding is that with participants matched for propensity, those who had contact with the police at time two (compared with those who didn't) said at time three that they'd feel less guilt if they committed various offences from theft to violence; they expressed more agreement with various "neutralisation" scenarios (e.g. it's OK to lie to keep yourself out of trouble); they were more committed to their deviant peers (e.g. they planned to continue hanging out with friends who'd been arrested); and finally, they said they'd engaged in more offending behaviour, from skipping classes to taking drugs or being violent. This pattern of results differed little whether police contact involved being arrested or merely being stopped.

Anthony Weiner's Sunk Costs?

Anthony Weiner is still running for mayor of New York as I write this, though that status may soon change. Not coincidentally, a reader named Jon Creem (an unfortunate aptonym in this case?) writes in to say:

Yesterday I enjoyed listening to your show about "Quitting." The segment where you explained "sunk cost" was especially interesting.

I took the explanation as people's unwillingness to give up due to the amount of investment (time, money, etc) they have already made.

Then, when catching up on the latest Anthony Weiner mayoral saga, I couldn't help make a connection.

Is this guy refusing to remove himself from the race because he feels he has done too much already to drop out now? In my opinion the odds are stacked against him regardless of how good a politician he is.

I assume continuing to campaign will only cost him more time and money. Is it worth it for him to continue?

Insofar as pride and ego are components of sunk cost, I guess Jon is right. On the other hand, it doesn't strike me that Weiner's continuing to run is really about sunk cost. Modern politics is so often an exercise in ego, hubris, and narcissism -- and if I were to armchair-analyze Weiner, I'd suggest that these factors are much more important than the sunk costs of time and money.

Downsizing Soft Drinks

In a recent New Yorker column, one of our best economics journalists, James Surowiecki, discusses Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to ban sales of soft drinks in containers exceeding 16 ounces. Mayor Bloomberg clearly believes, and Surowiecki seems to agree, that people would consume smaller amounts of soft drinks and fewer calories if a ban were enacted.

But would the effect result from behavioral considerations—many people will drink only one serving whether it is 8 oz. or 32 oz.? Or would it result from the second drink costing more time—the effort to get up and order a second 16-oz. drink after buying one—and more money—because the per-ounce price reflects the additional cost of serving two 16-oz. portions instead of one larger portion?  Outside the laboratory, what many argue is evidence for behavioral economics can often be explained by standard neoclassical considerations of money and time costs in demand.

New Lawyers in New York Must Give First 50 Hours Free

Fascinating article in today's Times, by Anne Barnard:

Starting next year, New York will become the first state to require lawyers to perform unpaid work before being licensed to practice, the state’s chief judge announced on Tuesday, describing the rule as a way to help the growing number of people who cannot afford legal services.

The approximately 10,000 lawyers who apply to the New York State Bar each year will have to demonstrate that they have performed 50 hours of pro bono work to be admitted, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said. He said the move was intended to provide about a half-million hours of badly needed legal services to those with urgent problems, like foreclosure and domestic violence.

Why Was Jeremy Lin Overlooked, and Should He Get Married?

A reader named Xavier Fan writes:

Would love to see some commentary on the Jeremy Lin phenomenon in the NBA. Is this not a classic Moneyball-style "undervalued player"? Indeed, one of the best parts of the whole feel-good story (and there are many) is how consistently teams and coaches at the college and NBA level overlooked him before his breakout week. Even the Knicks were ready to release him a few days before his first big game against the Nets. Was he overlooked because he didn't "look the part"? Will this impact how scouts and coaches evaluate players? What is the current status of sabermetrics for basketball?

The phenomenon is indeed phenomenal, and there has already been a lot of interesting stuff written about it (including his overseas marketing potential and an anti-Asian joke-gone-wrong).

Does Fingerprinting Food Stamp Recipients Save Money?

What do New York City and Arizona have in common? No, this is not a trick question; there is one thing: currently, they are the only jurisdictions in the country that require food stamp recipients to register their fingerprints in an electronic database. California and Texas recently lifted their fingerprinting requirements.

Not surprisingly, this has touched off a debate over social utility and costs in New York. Proponents say that the resulting fingerprint database saves the city millions of dollars a year in duplicate fraud. Last year, the Human Resources Administration said it found 1,900 cases of duplicate applications for 2010, with savings of nearly $5.3 million.

Detractors claim this estimate is unproven and that fingerprinting keeps a certain amount of needy people out of the system through intimidation.

New York City Media's Hurricane Overkill

By last Friday, New York City was in full-on hurricane panic mode. Public transportation was scheduled for a Saturday shut down, stores were selling out of batteries and flashlights, windows were being taped, sandbags stacked; three-hundred and seventy thousand people were evacuated. This was going to be bad, the local media kept telling us. Really, really bad. Even the number-crunching, data-driven Nate Silver got in on the action, posting an extensive piece on his fivethirtyeight blog that if Hurricane Irene got close enough to New York City, it could be the costliest natural disaster ever. And by Friday, it was heading straight for the Big Apple.

By midnight on Saturday, things (in the words of NBC anchor Brian Williams) were "getting a bit sporty" in NYC. Wind was gusting, rain was coming sideways. The streets were empty, save for dozens of intrepid local TV news reporters deployed throughout the city, standing ready to report on the impending damage. Which, remember, was going to be bad.

The center of Irene hit New York around 9am Sunday. Winds reached 65 mph, the strongest in 25 years. By 10 am, the worst was over. No hurricane-shattered skyscraper windows, no preemptive power outages, no real flooding to speak of. The general tone among New Yorkers Sunday morning was, "That's it?" But to watch the local TV news on Sunday, the storm had been epic. Rather than call in their battalion of reporters stationed around the area, the NYC TV news media kept reporting. All day.

Hurricane Shopping in NYC: And Then There Were But Keychain Flashlights Left

A weird week in New York City is only getting weirder. On Tuesday, for the first time since 1884, earthquake tremors were felt in the Big Apple; which, not surprisingly, came with no warning from earthquake prognosticators. Now, NYC is bracing for its first hurricane since 1985. (Any readers game for trying to calculate the odds of NYC getting hit by an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week, I'd love to see your estimates.) As I write, I'm watching out my window as people in the building across the street tape their windows. Which reminds me, I need duct tape!

Now that the MTA has announced that all NYC public transportation will be shut down beginning on noon Saturday, people are out in force doing some last minute hurricane shopping. So we decided to venture out and do a little reporting on what's left, and what's not.

In New York City, It Still Pays to Hop the Subway Turnstile

A report by New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority seems to prove that hopping a subway turnstile is worth the risk of getting caught and fined. The MTA estimates that riders entered the subway without paying 18.5 million times in 2009 (an average of 50,684 a day) while the police issued just 120,000 summonses, or 1 for every 154 jumps.

The report figures that a regular turnstile jumper has a chance of getting caught only once every 6 to 13 weeks. At $100 per fine, this works out to be cheaper than a $27 weekly unlimited Metrocard that would cost $162 over six weeks. So the fare-skipper who gets nabbed only once in that period still comes out ahead by $62. And that was in 2009. While the price for a weekly pass has since increased to $29, the cost of the fine has not, so in 2011 it pays even more to hop the turnstile.

From the Daily News:

"This basic street economics might explain observed evasion behaviors," the authors of the report wrote, arguing stiffer penalties might cut down on scofflaws. "Higher fines or arrests may have better deterrent effects."

School-Matching Failures, and Advice From the Man Who Designed the System

The Times reports on New York City kids who fail to get into any of the high schools they apply to. Al Roth, who helped design the school-choice program but has no hand in running it, reports on why this failure occurs. (One big problem, from the Times article: a school like Baruch College Campus H.S. received 7,606 applications for 120 seats, many of them coming from outside of Manhattan; but the school "has not accepted out-of-district students in many years, a fact not mentioned in the Education Department’s school profile."

Roth's advice:

For students: use all 12 choices. The system is designed so listing 12 choices won't hurt your chance of getting one of your top ones. But if you don't get one of your top choices, having some other schools on your list that you wouldn't mind going to will save you some heartache.

For schools and guidance counselors: give these kids more useful advice! They should be told if the lists they are submitting include only schools for which they have little or no chance of being accepted.