An Economic Analysis of Political Beliefs in Tort and Criminal Law

Scott Wentland

Advisor: Alexander Tabarrok

Committee Members: Bryan Caplan, Thomas Stratmann, David Bernstein

Enterprise Hall, Room 318
June 03, 2009, 08:00 PM to 07:00 PM


This dissertation examines juror decision-making from an economic perspective and uses panel data to determine the extent to which this economic hypothesis is consistent with real world trial outcomes. Chapter One surveys the relevant economic literature and formulates an economic perspective of juror behavior, making the case that jurors behave as if they are rationally political. Chapters Two and Three utilize relatively large panels of data to determine whether this economic perspective helps explain real world trial outcomes, exploring jury pools' political beliefs affect average tort awards, criminal sentences, and criminal conviction rates. The key empirical results are that Democratic-leaning jury pools have relatively lower conviction rates and choose longer sentences in criminal trials, and award more in tort trials. These results are robust over multiple data sets and model specifications, lending empirical support to the theory of juror decision-making presented in Chapter One.