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Race, Poverty, and American Tort Awards: Evidence from Three Datasets

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  • Eric Helland

    (Claremont McKenna College)

  • Alexander Tabarrok

    (George Mason University)

Abstract

We investigate the impact of the race and income of the jury pool on trial awards. We find that the average tort award increases as black and Hispanic county population rates increase and especially as black and Hispanic county poverty rates increase. An increase in the black countypoverty rate of 1 percentage point tends to raise the average personal injury tort award by 3 to 10 percent. An increase in the Hispanic county-poverty rate of 1 percentage point tends to raise awards by as much as 7 percent although this effect is less well estimated. These effects imply that forum shopping for high-poverty minority counties could raise awards by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Average awards fall with increases in white (non-black, non-Hispanic) poverty rates in two of our datasets, thus making these findings even more surprising. Awards increase with black and Hispanic county-poverty rates even after controlling for a wide variety of other potential causes.

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Paper provided by Claremont Colleges in its series Claremont Colleges Working Papers with number 2002-29.

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Handle: RePEc:clm:clmeco:2002-29

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  1. Eric Helland & Alexander Taberrok, . "The Effect of Electoral Institutions on Tort Awards," Claremont Colleges Working Papers 1999-07, Claremont Colleges.
  2. Viscusi, W Kip, 2001. "The Challenge of Punitive Damages Mathematics," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(2), pages 313-50, Part I Ju.
  3. Tabarrok, Alexander & Helland, Eric, 1999. "Court Politics: The Political Economy of Tort Awards," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 157-88, April.
  4. Karpoff, Jonathan M & Lott, John R, Jr, 1993. "The Reputational Penalty Firms Bear from Committing Criminal Fraud," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(2), pages 757-802, October.
  5. Joel Waldfogel, 1993. "The Selection Hypothesis and the Relationship between Trial and Plaintiff Victory," NBER Working Papers 4508, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Helland, Eric & Tabarrok, Alex, 2002. "The Effect of Electoral Institutions on Tort Awards," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt8rm9358c, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  7. Alexander, Cindy R & Arlen, Jennifer & Cohen, Mark A, 1999. "Regulating Corporate Criminal Sanctions: Federal Guidelines and the Sentencing of Public Firms," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 393-422, April.
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Cited by:
  1. Edward Stringham & Todd Zywicki, 2011. "Rivalry and superior dispatch: an analysis of competing courts in medieval and early modern England," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 147(3), pages 497-524, June.
  2. Eric Helland & Jonathan Klick & Alexander Tabarrok, 2005. "Data Watch: Tort-uring the Data," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 207-220, Spring.

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