NormCommitt -  Origins and Effects of Normative Commitments

ERC Grant n°614708


A debate in the development of legal institutions is whether individuals obey the law because the law incentivizes or because the law has legitimacy. Much of the PI’s research in law and in development seeks to understand how people form normative commitments, i.e., what people view as the moral and right thing to do, and how they respond to these normative commitments. His work traces the incentives that lead to human rights violations. The PI has examined how interpretations of religious and legal texts, particularly those associated with fundamentalism, interact with market forces. In two multi-part studies, the PI investigated the economic forces underlying the religious provision of social insurance, social sanctions, social conservatism, and the economic incentives that give rise to gender violence, sexual harassment, and regulation of the private domain. Through these investigations, the PI formulated a theory for why church-state separation arose in some countries but not in others, developed a methodology for empirically evaluating the effects of normative commitments, and used a particular instance of interpretive injustice where capital cases in the British Army during World War I were randomly executed or commuted, in order to estimate the deterrent and delegitimizing effects of the death penalty. The proposed project builds on this previous work. The proposal rests on 2 pillars: Normative Commitments in Health Care and Normative Commitments in Courts. Within these 2 pillars, the PI studies the effects of market forces on normative commitments and examines how normative commitments come into existence in the first place. (1) Normative Commitments in Health Care: The PI will measure the influence of pharmaceutical company payments to physicians on their normative commitments. This pillar will evaluate the effects of payments on physician prescriptions and patient outcomes. The pillar will examine whether disclosure laws affect the relationship between payments, prescriptions, and patient outcomes. The pillar will employ a unique U.S. dataset on over 2 billion prescription claims per year on up to 177 million individuals and a Danish database of all prescription drugs sold linked to prescribers with pharmaceutical associations. (2) Normative Commitments in Courts: This pillar will use the random assignment of judges in common law courts to measure the impact of exogenous changes in legal precedent. The pillar will apply a method co-developed by the PI for two-stage least squares estimation (Econometrica (80(6), 2369-2429, 2012) that exploits judicial characteristics as instrumental variables. The pillar will study the effects of 24 legal areas, including capital punishment, free speech, gay rights, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and rights of the disabled. The pillar will use this data to study the origin of rights.


Project date: 01/09/2014 – 31/08/2019


Contact in TSE: Daniel CHEN