Panel Paper: Do Policies Affect Preferences? Evidence From Random Variation In Abortion Jurisprudence

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 10:55 AM
Calhoun (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Daniel Chen, ETH Zurich, Vardges Levonyan, Harvard University and Susan Yeh, University of Pennsylvania

Whether policies shift preferences is important in policy design. We isolate exogenous variation in abortion jurisprudence using the random assignment of Democratic appointee judges, which strongly increases the probability of a liberal abortion decision. We also document that newspapers report appellate abortion decisions and conduct a field experiment assigning workers to transcribe these news reports. Using both sources of variation, we find that exposure to liberal abortion precedent lead to more conservative public opinions. Our results are consistent with a signaling model where legal decisions affect the ability to signal one’s moral type and the social perception of particular actions.

Full Paper: