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Race, Poverty, and American Tort Awards: Evidence from Three Data Sets

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  • Eric Helland
  • Alexander Tabarrok

Abstract

We investigate the impact of the race and income of the jury pool on trial awards. 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 county poverty rate of 1 percentage point tends to raise the average personal injury tort award by 3–10 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. Forum shopping for high-poverty minority counties could raise awards by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Average awards decrease with increases in white (nonblack, non-Hispanic) poverty rates in two of our data sets, 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric Helland & Alexander Tabarrok, 2003. "Race, Poverty, and American Tort Awards: Evidence from Three Data Sets," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 27-58, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:32:y:2003:p:27-58
    DOI: 10.1086/344560
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Viscusi, W Kip, 2001. "The Challenge of Punitive Damages Mathematics," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(2), pages 313-350, Part I Ju.
    2. Waldfogel, Joel, 1995. "The Selection Hypothesis and the Relationship between Trial and Plaintiff Victory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 229-260, April.
    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 157-188, April.
    4. George L. Priest & Benjamin Klein, 1984. "The Selection of Disputes for Litigation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(1), pages 1-56, January.
    5. Eric Helland & Alexander Taberrok, "undated". "The Effect of Electoral Institutions on Tort Awards," Claremont Colleges Working Papers 1999-07, Claremont Colleges.
    6. 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.
    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.
    8. Eric Helland & Alexander Tabarrok, 2002. "The Effect of Electoral Institutions on Tort Awards," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 341-370.
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    Cited by:

    1. Matter, Ulrich & Stutzer, Alois, 2015. "Politico-economic determinants of tort reforms in medical malpractice," Working papers 2015/02, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
    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.
    3. 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.

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