Past Event
Tuesday, Jul 6, 2021
2:00 PM — 3:00 PM ET

Misdemeanor cases make up over 80 percent of the cases processed by the U.S. criminal justice system, yet we know little about the causal impacts of misdemeanor prosecution. In this talk, we will report the first estimates of the causal effects of misdemeanor prosecution on defendants' subsequent criminal justice involvement. To do this, we leverage the quasi-random assignment of nonviolent misdemeanor cases to arraigning assistant district attorneys in the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in Massachusetts between 2004 and 2018. We find that the marginal prosecuted misdemeanor defendant has a substantially higher risk of being charged with a subsequent criminal complaint, of being prosecuted on that complaint, and of acquiring a criminal record of that complaint, within two years of their initial case. These effects appear to work through a longer time to case disposition, an increased likelihood of acquiring a criminal record of a misdemeanor complaint, and an increased likelihood of a misdemeanor conviction in the current case.


  • Dr. Amanda Agan
    Assistant Director of Economics at Rutgers University; Affiliated Professor of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University
  • Dr. Jennifer Doleac
    Assistant Director of Economics at Texas A&M University; President of Doleac Initiatives
  • Dr. Anna Harvey
    Professor of Politics at New York University; Affiliated Professor of Data Science and Law at New York University; Director of Public Safety Lab