Emily G. Owens

University of California - Irvine
Department of Criminology, Law and Society
2311 Social Ecology II
Irvine, CA 92697
Tel: 949-824-7929

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
Institutional Affiliation: University of California at Irvine

NBER Working Papers and Publications

May 2018Is Your Lawyer a Lemon? Incentives and Selection in the Public Provision of Criminal Defense
with Amanda Agan, Matthew Freedman: w24579
Governments in the U.S. must offer free legal services to low-income people accused of crimes. These services are frequently provided by assigned counsel, who handle cases for indigent defendants on a contract basis. Court-assigned attorneys generally garner worse case outcomes than privately retained attorneys. Using detailed court records from one large jurisdiction in Texas, we find that the disparities in outcomes are primarily attributable to case characteristics and within-attorney differences across cases in which they are assigned versus retained. The selection of low-quality lawyers into assigned counsel and endogenous matching in the private market contribute less to the disparities.
February 2013Does Federal Financial Aid Affect College Enrollment? Evidence from Drug Offenders and the Higher Education Act of 1998
with Michael F. Lovenheim: w18749
In 2001, amendments to the Higher Education Act made people convicted of drug offenses ineligible for federal financial aid for up to two years after their conviction. Using rich data on educational outcomes and drug charges in the NLSY 1997, we show that this law change had a large negative impact on the college attendance of students with drug convictions. On average, the temporary ban on federal financial aid increased the amount of time between high school graduation and college enrollment by about two years, and we also present suggestive evidence that affected students were less likely to ever enroll in college. Students living in urban areas and those whose mothers did not attend college appear to be the most affected by these amendments. Importantly, we do not find that the law det...

Published: Lovenheim, Michael F. & Owens, Emily G., 2014. "Does federal financial aid affect college enrollment? Evidence from drug offenders and the Higher Education Act of 1998," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 1-13. citation courtesy of

April 2011Sentencing Guidelines and Judicial Discretion: Quasi-experimental Evidence from Human Calculation Errors
with Shawn D. Bushway, Anne Morrison Piehl: w16961
There is a debate about whether advisory non-binding sentencing guidelines affect the sentences outcomes of individuals convicted in jurisdictions with this sentencing framework. Identifying the impact of sentencing guidelines is a difficult empirical problem because court actors may have preferences for sentencing severity that are correlated with the preferences that are outlined in the guidelines. But, in Maryland, ten percent of the recommended sentences computed in the guideline worksheets contain calculation errors. We use this unique source of quasi-experimental variation to quantify the extent to which sentencing guidelines influence policy outcomes. Among drug offenses, we find that the direct impact of the guidelines is roughly ½ the size of the overall correlation between recom...

Published: “ Sentencing Guidelines and Judicial Discretion: Quasi - experimental Evidence from Human Calculation Errors ” (with Shawn D. Bushway and Emily G. Owens ), Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 9(2) , June 2012 , 291 - 319 .

April 2010One for the Road: Public Transportation, Alcohol Consumption, and Intoxicated Driving
with C. Kirabo Jackson: w15872
We exploit arguably exogenous train schedule changes in Washington DC to investigate the relationship between public transportation provision, the risky decision to consume alcohol, and the criminal decision to engage in alcohol-impaired driving. Using a triple differences strategy, we provide evidence that overall there was little effect on DUI arrests, alcohol related fatal traffic and alcohol related arrests. However, we find that these overall effects mask considerable heterogeneity across geographic areas and spatial shifting. Specifically, we find that areas close to bars that are within walking distance to Metro stations experience increases in alcohol related arrests and decreases in DUI arrests.

Published: Jackson, C. Kirabo, and Emily Greene Owens, "One for the road: Public transportation, alcohol consumption, and intoxicated driving", Journal of Public Economics, Volume 95, Issues 1-2, February 2011, Pages 106-121. citation courtesy of

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