Social Science Job Candidate Seminar
Bargaining with Asymmetric Information: an Empirical Study of Plea Negotiations [pdf]
This paper empirically investigates how sentences to be assigned at trial impact plea bargaining. The analysis is based on a variation of a bargaining model with asymmetric information due to Bebchuk (1984). I provide conditions for the non-parametric identification of the model, propose a consistent non-parametric estimator, and implement it using data on criminal cases from North Carolina. I find that the majority of cases settle for a sentence that is roughly 50 percent of the one that would be assigned in the event of a trial conviction. Employing the estimated model, I evaluate how different sentencing reforms affect the outcome of criminal cases. My results indicate that lowering mandatory minimum sentences has the potential to greatly reduce the total amount of jail time assigned by the justice system, but may increase conviction rates. In contrast, the broader use of non-jail sentences for less serious crimes reduces the number of jail convictions, but has a negligible effect over the total assigned jail time.