Purdue University Graduate School
McClain Thesis.pdf (3.77 MB)

Incentives and Organization in Policy

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posted on 2019-10-17, 19:28 authored by William Boyd McClainWilliam Boyd McClain
The following dissertation presents three, stand-alone chapters on incentives and organization in the analysis of public policy. The first two chapters use administrative data from the court system of North Carolina to (1) provide evidence of strategic scheduling decisions for felony cases around judicial rotations and (2) evaluate a wide range of alternative measures of judicial severity, a common methodology used in random judge assignment for evaluation of sentencing on recidivism and in the broader field of scoring and third-party evaluation. The first chapter presents a variety of tests for strategic scheduling, finding systematic variation in the disposition of cases by judges in their election district and by defendant gender. The second chapter presents coefficients from two-stage least squares estimates of the effect of incarceration, probation, and sentence length on recidivism, finding broadly consistent results in direction, but with a significant degree of variation in point estimates and confidence interval size. In addition, alternative indexes sometimes pass and sometimes fail balance and monotonicity tests. Finally, evidence is presented that there are multidimensional elements to judicial propensities around sentence type and sentence intensity, indicating that a single severity index may miss important variations in judge types that are meaningful to defendant outcomes. The third chapter uses data from the 1992 to 2017 Censuses of Agriculture to evaluate the impact of the Land Contract Guarantee Pilot Program (LCGP) on the share of new farmers in counties across the United States. Estimates of shares of new farmers from a difference-in-differences model are then used to assess the impact of new farmers on aggregate measures of farm capital and federal program participation. In general, the LCGP has a significant and positive effect on the share of new farmers. Counties with higher shares of new farmers are less likely to participate in federal conservation programs and have lower total machinery assets. An event study approach that includes data from 2017, when the LCGP was expanded nationwide, confirms positive effects from the program, but offers conflicting views on farm capital and program participation. It is suggested that this is likely a result of additional programs put in place in the 2014 Farm Bill, and future research is proposed to address this conflicting sign.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Agricultural Economics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Steven Wu

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Jillian Carr

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Lawrence DeBoer

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Brigitte Waldorf

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