Jeremy B. Smith, PhD

Economist (go to main page)



Towards Understanding the Role of Price in Residential Electricity Choices: Evidence from a Natural Experiment (Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming, with Katrina Jessoe and David Rapson) [open in PDF]

ABSTRACT: We examine a choice setting in which residential electricity consumers may respond to non-financial incentives in addition to prices. Using data from a natural field experiment that exposed some households to a change in their electricity rates, we find that households reduced electricity usage in response to a contemporaneous decrease in electricity prices. This provides clear evidence that other factors – potentially encompassing non-monetary and dynamic considerations – can influence consumer choice, and even dominate the static price response in some cases. A comprehensive understanding of household behavior in energy markets is essential for the effective implementation of market-based energy and environmental policies. The documentation of our result and others like it is a necessary step in achieving such an understanding.

Working Papers

Utilization and Customer Behavior: What Economists Are Learning About the Drivers of Residential Electricity Choices (chapter for the Handbook of Smart Grid Development, with Katrina Jessoe and David Rapson) [open in PDF]

ABSTRACT: The smart grid offers a wide array of opportunities to improve efficiency of the electricity grid via load management policies. In this chapter we review the current state of knowledge in the economics literature as it relates to time-varying pricing and to behavioral interventions, which together comprise a large portion of regulators’ policy choice set. We present evidence that consumers respond to financial incentives, but that these are not the only determinants of behavior. For example, consumers are often uninformed and inattentive, and exhibit a tendency to respond to non-monetary incentives as well as monetary. Our examination of this evidence leads us to conclude that time-varying pricing is an essential policy instrument for load management, while instruments designed to boost customer attentiveness and allow households to become better informed about their energy use play an important complementary role. Smart meters are crucial in making such a policy package feasible. As part of our review, we also discuss the power of randomized experimental designs, which underlie much of the evidence that we present. We highlight important areas for future research, and recommend that such future research efforts continue to leverage randomized designs.

Power to Bias? The Effect of Attorney Empowerment in Voir Dire on Jury Prejudice and Race (with Jee-Yeon K. Lehmann) [open in PDF]

ABSTRACT: Giving attorneys more power in the voir dire (jury selection) process may allow them to 1) more easily dismiss jurors whom they wish to strike on a priori grounds; 2) acquire information that enables them to identify favorably-inclined jurors more precisely; or both. Attorneys who are more skilled can better leverage their increased power to retain the jurors they prefer. We show theoretically that, since defense attorneys tend to prefer non-white jurors a priori, the interaction of empowerment and defense attorney skill should produce juries with a greater proportion of non-whites if only the first mechanism is operative, but need not have this effect if the second is operative. We find empirically that skilled and empowered attorneys can indeed stack juries by retaining jurors predisposed to their side at a greater rate. However, we find that empowerment and skill have small and insignificant impacts on the racial composition of the seated jury. In the context of our model, this result implies that, for at least some of the trials in our dataset, attorneys leveraged empowerment in voir dire to learn more about potential jurors, rather than simply to strike more effectively by relying on racial stereotypes. Our findings provide strong evidence that extensive voir dire involving attorneys can lead to the seating of biased juries when opposing counsels are unequally skilled, yet the presence of this bias may not be detected in the observable characteristics of seated juries.

A Multidimensional Examination of Jury Composition, Trial Outcomes, and Attorney Preferences (with Jee-Yeon K. Lehmann) [open in PDF]

ABSTRACT: We assess the degree to which seated juries in U.S. criminal trials might fall short of the constitutional ideal of impartiality. We first ask if certain demographic and socioeconomic characteristics are related to pre-deliberation biases that individual jurors hold or to the verdicts at which juries arrive collectively. We do not focus solely on race, but also jointly consider other characteristics – sex, age, religiousness, education, and income – that existing literature has largely neglected. A uniquely rich dataset on non-capital felony jury trials held in four major state trial courts allows us to identify within-case effects and to control for typically unobservable aspects of the trial and its participants. We find that jurors with higher income and religiousness hold more favorable sentiments for the prosecution, while blacks hold more favorable sentiments for the defense. These pre-deliberation biases are reflected in trial outcomes, with juries with a higher average income and a greater proportion of religious jurors acquitting on fewer counts, and juries with a greater proportion of blacks convicting on fewer counts. However, these jury composition effects are smaller and account for less of the explained variation in verdicts than the effect of evidentiary strength. Moreover, while we find that prosecuting/defense attorneys prefer juries with higher/lower average income, indicating that attorneys are aware of the effect of income on predispositions and verdicts and may therefore attempt to leverage this knowledge to manipulate trial outcomes in their favor, we also find evidence that they are mistaken about the effects of other characteristics. Our results thus raise some concerns regarding the trustworthiness of U.S. criminal trials, but also provide important context for such concerns, especially by illustrating that the sources of jury bias may be more nuanced and multidimensional than an analysis based on race alone would imply.

Articles and Research Reports

An Analysis of the Labour Productivity Growth Slowdown in Canada Since 2000 (International Productivity Monitor, Number 10, Spring 2005, with Someshwar Rao and Andrew Sharpe) [open in PDF]

Assessing Aggregate Labour Productivity Trends in Canada and the United States: Total Economy versus Business Sector Perspectives (International Productivity Monitor, Number 8, Spring 2004) [open in PDF]

International Productivity Comparisons: An Examination of Data Sources (International Productivity Monitor, Number 6, Spring 2003) [open in PDF]

Aggregate Labour Productivity Growth in Canada and the United States: Definitions, Trends and Measurement Issues (CSLS Research Report number 2004-04, September) [open in PDF]

Productivity Trends in the Coal Mining Industry in Canada (CSLS Research Report number 2004-07, October) [open in PDF]

Productivity Trends in the Gold Mining Industry in Canada (CSLS Research Report number 2004-08, October) [open in PDF]

The Growth of Diamond Mining in Canada and Implications for Mining Productivity (CSLS Research Report number 2004-09, October) [open in PDF]

Labour Market Seasonality in Canada: Trends and Policy Implications (CSLS Research Report number 2005-01, February, with Andrew Sharpe) [open in PDF]

Measuring the Impact of Research on Well-being: A Survey of Indicators of Well-being (CSLS Research Report number 2005-02, February, with Andrew Sharpe) [open in PDF]

Older Projects

Awards for Environmental Damages in Jury Versus Bench Trials

ABSTRACT: This paper tests for a difference in awards between bench (judge-only) trials and jury trials in a sample of district federal court cases in which complaints are based on alleged violations of major environmental statutes. The potential for excessive jury awards has not previously been rigorously investigated for environmental litigation due to a lack of data. I use the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) database to construct a dataset. I argue, however, that existing empirical approaches to this question may be flawed. In civil trials, both plaintiffs and defendants have a right to a trial by jury, which means that bench trials must be agreed upon by both parties. Unpredictable jury awards will lead risk-averse plaintiffs to agree to a bench trial when the perceived probability of a small jury award is high, exacerbating the estimated gap between jury awards and judge awards. Cross-district differences in jury selection practices and jury pool demographics help to diagnose and correct for this endogeneity.

Migrants’ Responses to Origin-Country Shocks and Natural Disasters (with Paul Karner and Arup Sen)

ABSTRACT: The aim of this paper is to examine the responses of migrants residing in the United States to important changes affecting their countries of origin. We use the United States Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to assemble panel data on migrants from over 70 developing countries for the 1996-2006 period, and link this to country-level data on a variety of macroeconomic outcomes. Focusing on earning and saving behavior of migrants from countries experiencing large exchange rate movements in the late 1990s, we find that individual migrant responses to such exchange rate movements fall into three distinct groups: those consistent with target sending behavior; those consistent with remittance maximizing behavior; and those consistent with home-biased investing behavior. We are currently applying our empirical strategy to study migrant responses to natural disasters.

Cognitive Dissonance and Responses to Climate Change Opinion Polls

ABSTRACT: A key prediction of cognitive dissonance theory is that, when individuals engage in an activity or make a public statement that is in conflict with their beliefs, they often find that the least costly response to the resulting psychological discomfort is to change their beliefs. I build a very simple model to explore this implied trade-off between changing actions, changing beliefs, and suffering the psychological consequences of cognitive dissonance. Public opinion concerning climate change would seem to present a fruitful avenue for exploring this empirically, but conceptual and data issues are numerous.

Government Funding of Universities when Education is an Ability-Revealing Mechanism

ABSTRACT: I develop a model in which education has the effect of revealing the abilities of individuals to those individuals themselves. The market outcome in this model is sometimes efficient, and when it is not, subsidies to education can often but not always correct the inefficiency.

The Social Dimension of Educational Attainment Decisions and Implications for Human Capital Measurement

ABSTRACT: I study the social determinants of decisions regarding the acquisition of education, such as the values of one’s family and social network, and the decisions made by one’s peers. I show that, when these social determinants are present in a simple model, individuals can choose to acquire more education than a benevolent planner would choose for them.

Uncovering the Effect of International Trade on National Security

ABSTRACT: Are countries that engage in international trade likely to suffer decreased national security? I review a contribution to this question from the field of conflict economics, in which there are two countries and the aggregate level of insecurity is determined endogenously, and extend it in various ways. The results show an ambiguous effect of trade on security in general, though suggest that gains from trade stemming from productivity differences rather than differences in endowments of natural resources can lead to a positive relationship between trade and security.


This page was last updated on Monday, September 22, 2014.