Law and economics is divided between the consequentialist view that optimal policy should be based on calculations of costs and benefits and a non-consequentialist view that policy should be determined deontologically: from duties we derive what is the correct law–what is right and just.

Are there deontological motivations, and if there are, how might we formally model these motivations? What are the implications of things like deontological motivations for economics and policy, and what puzzles can we explain with deontological motivations that we cannot with standard models? Returning to the motivating frame, what is the impact of law & economics on justice?

To answer these questions, I have curated 4 terabytes of archival and administrative data on judges and courts where normative ideas incubate; the data bridge machine learning, causal inference, and normative theories of justice regarding equal treatment before the law and equality based on recognition of difference. To study normative commitments in experiments, I developed a programming language now used in 23 countries, 10 academic disciplines, private and public sectors, and local high schools. The research has anchored successful applications with € 3 200 000 in grant budget awarded for “Origins and Effects of Normative Commitments”, “Positive Foundations of Normative Commitments”, and “Digital Humanities: Legal Analysis in a Big Data World” and received support from the European Research Council Consolidator Grant, Swiss National Science Foundation, and Agence Nationale de la Recherche.

Some of my projects on consequences, formation, and measurement of normative commitments and applications in law include:

  • Law and Development tracing the incentives that led to what are now viewed as human rights violations
  • Markets and Morality how market forces interact with normative commitments
  • Behavioral Judging social and psychological, economic and political influences on legal ideas and production of justice
  • Law and Legitimacy role of legitimacy in legal compliance
  • Demography of Ideas economics of interpretation as a source of normative commitments

The research has been accepted in leading economics journals (American Economic Review, Econometrica, Quarterly Journal of Economics, and Journal of Political Economy), computer science journals (Journal of Machine Learning Research), and peer-review law outlets (Stanford-Yale Junior Faculty Forum).


Contract law

Do Pharmaceutical Company Payments to Physicians Influence Prescribing Behavior and Patient Outcomes?

A Theory of Experiments: Invariance of Equilibrium to the Strategy Method of Elicitation
TSE Working Paper No. 16-724; M. Schonger

Markets, Morality, and Economic Growth: Competition Affects Moral Judgment
TSE Working Paper No. 16-692

Is Ambiguity Aversion a Preference?
TSE Working Paper No. 16-703; M. Schonger

Testing Axiomatizations of Ambiguity Aversion
TSE Working Paper No. 16-703; M. Schonger

Egoism vs. Altruism: Intermediation Reduces Altruism

Social Preferences or Sacred Values? Theory and Evidence of Deontological Motivations
American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, invited to resubmit; TSE Working Paper No. 16-714; M. Schonger

Mandatory Disclosure: Theory and Evidence from Industry-Physician Relationships
Journal of Legal Studies, invited to resubmit; TSE Working Paper No. 16-716; V. Levonyan, E. Reinhart, G. Taksler

Tastes for Desert and Placation: A Reference Point-Dependent Model of Social Preferences
Research in Experimental Economics, resubmitted; TSE Working Paper No. 16-725

Can Markets Stimulate Rights? On the Alienability of Legal Claims
RAND Journal of Economics, 46(1), 23-65, 2015

A Market for Justice: A First Empirical Look at Third-Party Litigation Funding
Journal of Business Law, 15(3), 2013; D. Abrams

Does Disclosure Matter?
Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, 168(1), 120-123, 2012

Constitutional law

The Long-Run Effects of Criminal Justice Exposure on Trust in the Law and Perceptions of Legitimacy

The Impact of Economics on Moral Decision-Making and Legal Thought
E. Ash, S. Naidu

How Do Rights Revolutions Occur? Free Speech and the First Amendment
TSE Working Paper No. 16-705; S. Yeh

Religious Freedoms, Church-State Separation, and Religiosity: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges
E. Ash

Law and Norms: A Machine Learning Approach to Predicting Attitudes Towards Abortion
K. Kwan, M. Maass, L. Ortiz

Policies Affect Preferences: Evidence from Random Variation in Abortion Jurisprudence
Journal of Political Economy, under review, 12/15; TSE Working Paper No. 16-723; V. Levonyan, S. Yeh

The Deterrent Effect of the Death Penalty? Evidence from British Commutations During World War I
American Economic Review, resubmitted; TSE Working Paper No. 16-706

Government Expropriation Increases Economic Growth and Racial Inequality: Evidence from Eminent Domain
Economic Journal, invited to resubmit; TSE Working Paper No. 16-693; S. Yeh

Judicial Compliance in District Courts
Economic Inquiry, invited to resubmit; TSE Working Paper No. 16-715; J. Frankenreiter, S. Yeh

The Shareholder Wealth Effects of Delaware Litigation
American Law and Economics Review, accepted with minor revisions; TSE Working Paper No. 16-683; A. Badawi

The Genealogy of Ideology: Identifying Persuasive Memes and Predicting Agreement in the U.S. Courts of Appeals
Proceedings of the ACM Conference on AI and the Law, forthcoming; TSE Working Paper, No. 17-783; A. Parthasarathy, S. Verma

The Construction of Morals
Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 104, 84-105, 2014; S. Yeh

Distinguishing Between Custom and Law: Empirical Examples of Endogeneity from Property and First Amendment Precedents
William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, 21(1081), 2013; S. Yeh

Does Appellate Precedent Matter? Stock Price Responses to Appellate Court Decisions of FCC Actions
Empirical Legal Analysis: Assessing the Performance of Legal Institutions, 2013; A. Araiza, S. Yeh

Sparse Models and Methods for Optimal Instruments with an Application to Eminent Domain
Econometrica, 80(6), 2369-2429, 2012; A. Belloni, V. Chernozhukov, C. Hansen


Mood and the Malleability of Moral Reasoning
TSE Working Paper No. 16-707

Judicial Exits from the U.S. Courts of Appeals are Politically Motivated
TSE Working Paper No. 16-721

White Privilege in Law? The Reproduction of Racial Hierarchy in Sentencing Disparities

Is Justice Blind? And Is It Also Deaf?

Mimicry: Phonetic Accommodation Predicts U.S. Supreme Court Votes
D. Kozbur, A. Yu

Events Unrelated to Crime Predict Criminal Sentence Length

How Does Science Progress? A Statistical Approach to Postmodern Theories of Knowledge

Non-Confrontational Extremists
TSE Working Paper No. 16-694; M. Michaeli, D. Spiro

Implicit Egoism in Sentencing Decisions: First Letter Name Effects with Randomly Assigned Defendants
Journal of Political Economy, under review, 1/17; TSE Working Paper No. 16-726

Electoral Cycles Among U.S. Courts of Appeals Judges
Economic Journal, under review, 4/17; TSE Working Paper No. 16-704; C. Berdejo

Priming Ideology: Why Presidential Elections Affect U.S. Judges
Journal of Law and Economics, resubmitted; TSE Working Paper No. 16-681

Does Empathy Beget Guile? Experimental Evidence
Review of Law and Economics, invited to resubmit; TSE Working Paper No. 16-684

What Matters: Agreement Among U.S. Courts of Appeals Judges NIPS16
Journal of Machine Learning Research, forthcoming; TSE Working Paper No. 16-747; X. Cui, L. Shang, J. Zheng

Early Predictability of Asylum Court Decisions
Proceedings of the ACM Conference on AI and the Law, forthcoming; TSE Working Paper No. 17-781; M. Dunn, L. Sagun, H. Sirin

Can Machine Learning Help Predict the Outcome of Asylum Adjudications?
Proceedings of the ACM Conference on AI and the Law, forthcoming; TSE Working Paper No. 17-782; J. Eagel

Decision-Making Under the Gambler’s Fallacy: Evidence From Asylum Courts, Loan Officers, and Baseball Umpires
Quarterly Journal of Economics, 131(3): 1181-1241, 2016; NBER Working Paper No. 22026; TSE Working Paper No. 16-674; T. Moskowitz, K. Shue

Tax law

Confusing Average and Marginal Tax Rates: Experimental Evidence

The Political Economy of Beliefs: Why Fiscal and Social Conservatives/Liberals (Sometimes) Come Hand-in-Hand
TSE Working Paper No. 16-722; J. Lind

Can Countries Reverse Fertility Decline? Evidence from France's Marriage and Baby Bonuses, 1929-1981
International Tax and Public Finance, 118(3), 252-271, 2011

Trading Off Reproductive Technology and Adoption: A Response to Appleton and Pollak
Minnesota Law Review, 95(6), 2011; I. G. Cohen

Trading Off Reproductive Technology and Adoption: Do IVF Subsidies Decrease Adoption Rates and Should It Matter? Stanford-Yale Junior Faculty Forum
Minnesota Law Review, 95(2), 2010; I. G. Cohen

Religion, Welfare Politics, and Church-State Separation
Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 42(1), 42-52, 2007; J. Lind

Income Distribution Dynamics with Endogenous Fertility
Journal of Economic Growth, 7(3), 227-258, 2002; NBER Working Paper No. w7530; M. Kremer

Income-Distribution Dynamics with Endogenous Fertility
American Economic Review, 89(2), 155-160, May 1999; NBER Working Paper No. w7530; M. Kremer

Employment law

The Economics of Crowdsourcing: A Theory of Disaggregated Labor Markets

Covering: Mutable Characteristics and Perceptions of Voice in the U.S. Supreme Court
Review of Economic Studies, invited to resubmit; TSE Working Paper No. 16-680; Y. Halberstam, A. Yu

Insiders, Outsiders, and Involuntary Unemployment: Sexual Harassment Exacerbates Gender Inequality
Review of Economics and Statistics, invited to resubmit; TSE Working Paper No. 16-687; J. Sethi

Perceived Masculinity Predicts U.S. Supreme Court Outcomes
PLoS-ONE, 11(10), e0164324; TSE Working Paper No. 16-682; Y. Halberstam, A. Yu

Are Online Labor Markets Spot Markets for Tasks? A Field Experiment on the Behavioral Response to Wages Cuts
Information Systems Research, 27(2), 403-423; TSE Working Paper No. 16-675; J. Horton

'Not that Smart': Sonia Sotomayor and the Construction of Merit
Emory Law Journal, 61(4), 2012; G. Charles, M. Gulati

Designing Incentives for Inexpert Human Raters
Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 2011; J. Horton, A. Shaw

International law

Do Markets Overcome Repugnance? Muslim Trade Response to Anti-Muhammad Cartoons

Gender Violence and the Price of Virginity: Theory and Evidence of Incomplete Marriage Contracts

Economic Distress Stimulates Religious Fundamentalism

Economics, Religion, and Culture: A Brief Introduction
Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 104, 1-3, 2014; D. Hungerman

Club Goods and Group Identity: Evidence from Islamic Resurgence During the Indonesian Financial Crisis
Journal of Political Economy, 118(2), 300-354, 2010

Islamic Resurgence and Social Violence During the Indonesian Financial Crisis
Institutions and Norms in Economic Development, MIT Press, ed. M. Gradstein and K. Konrad, 179-200, 2007

Interim Report on a Preschool Intervention Program in Kenya
P. Glewwe, M. Kremer, S. Moulin


oTree: An Open Source Platform for Online, Lab, and Field Experiments
Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance, 9(1), 88-97, 2016, M. Schonger, C. Wickens

The 21st Century Mechanical Turk: A True Automaton for Running Experimental Gamess
A. Dreber, J. Horton, D. Rand

Investigating Variation in English Vowel-to-Vowel Coarticulation in a Longitudinal Phonetic Corpus
Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, 2015; C. Abrego-Collier, J. Phillips, B. Pillion, A. Yu

An Empirical Study Comparing the Controlled Random Search Procedure and the General Simulated Annealing Method for Function Optimization
Proceedings of the Fourth Annual District of Columbia Computer Conference, 1995


Contracts and Commitments

Contract Law
Duke Law (JD)

Positive Foundations of Normative Commitments
Hebrew Law (JD), Institutional and Organizational Economics Academy (PhD)

Hermemetrics Lab: The Economics of Interpretation
Harvard Economics (BA)

Theorizing Cultural Differences: The Economics of Fundamentalism
University of Chicago Economics (BA)

Law and Economics Reading List

Machine Learning and Computational Statistics Syllabus
NYU Courant Institute of Mathematics Center for Data Science (MS) (project advisor)

Empirical Methods and the Law
Duke Law (JD), ETH Zurich (PhD), Summer School: Behavioral Economics and Experimental Research (PhD)

Law and Economics (theory)
Duke Law, cross-listed Economics (JD/MA)

Decision Theory
Harvard Engineering Sciences (PhD) (teaching fellow)


I am always looking for curious, dedicated people interested in getting involved with research at the postdoctoral, doctoral, or pre-doctoral level. See research statement for background on current research. Brief summary of ongoing projects analyzing 4 terabytes of curated archival and administrative data on judges and courts:


1. Link administrative Medicare data to industry-physician relationships cleaned from litigation settlements (a comprehensive dataset will soon be available through the Affordable Care Act) to examine the impact of disclosure laws and the impact of pharmaceutical company payments to doctors on prescribing, patient outcomes, and patient adherence.

2. Automate advances in high-dimensional econometrics for causal effects of court precedent where judges are randomly assigned. Apply method in legal areas where we have already hand-coded data (sexual harassment, eminent domain, free speech, abortion, church-state separation, affirmative action, gay rights, disability rights, campaign finance, capital punishment, criminal appeals, desegregation, sex discrimination, punitive damages, federalism, National Labor Review Board, environmental protection, National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Communications Commission, Title VII, First Amendment, Eleventh Amendment, standing, contracts, and corporate veil piercing are among the 25 polarized legal areas) to study the channels through which legal regulations have their effects. Use high-frequency data to buttress assumptions of exogeneity and precedence. Examine whether law shapes values and conceptions of rights.

3. Develop oTree for running real-time experiments in lab, online, or via smart device in the field. Show, e.g., how presence of deontological commitments can problematize widely used experimental methods involving random lottery incentive and strategy method; theoretically and empirically probe foundations of polarization; test assumptions in private law and judicial decision-making. oTree is open-source and an innovation on zTree.

4. Digitize universe of US Circuit Court cases from 1880 to 2013 (roughly 380,000 cases), the identities of randomly assigned judges sitting on the panels and authoring the opinions, the dissents and concurrences, the judges' biographies, the hand-labeled legal topic, the citation network among the cases, and 2 billion N-grams of up to length eight. Link publicly available Supreme Court datasets, US District docket datasets, geocoded judge seats, biographies of judicial clerks, 5% random sample hand-labeled for hundreds of features including vote ideology, oral arguments, and administrative data from Administrative Office of the US Courts (date of key milestones, e.g., oral arguments, when was the last brief filed, etc.) for measuring priming of identity, peer effects, perfectionism, partisan ways of persuasion, judicial innovation, and the genealogy of ideologies and schools of thought in temporally and spatially disaggregated text. Use algorithmic mechanism design, LASSO, and automated text analysis for court precedent project and citation data for econometrics of networks.

5. Digitize World War I British archival datasets, including universe of deserters reported in military diaries, police gazettes, and handwritten military trials, commuted and executed capital sentences, geocoded casualties, maps, officer lists, and order of battle to examine the role of legitimacy in legal compliance, effect of the death penalty on British vs. Irish soldiers, and potential long-run impact of demographic violence.

6. Curate universe of administrative data on 1 million refugee asylum and 15 million hearing sessions and their time of day across 50 courthouses and 20 years (with randomly assigned judges), 1 million criminal sentencing decisions in US District Courts from 1992-2009 (with randomly assigned judges), and hand-collected biographical data to study gambler's fallacy, implicit egoism, habit formation, racial contrast, mood, extraneous factors, and time of day effects on judges' normative commitments.

7. Link universe of individuals in a federal prosecutor's office over a decade with many stages of random assignment, linked to administrative data on wages, education, credit, among other life outcomes, and past and current addresses for survey follow-up to measure, e.g., name letter effects, perceived legitimacy of law using a tool like oTree, and the long-run effects of forced migration.

8. Digitize speech patterns in US Supreme Court oral arguments since 1955 - longitudinal data on speech intonation (linguistic turns) are rare. Link to oral advocates' biographies, faces, clipped identical introductory sentences, and ratings of their traits. Test labor market treatment of mutable characteristics and persuasion, and mimicry between lawyers and Justices and among Justices over time using high-dimensional econometrics.

Interested graduate and postdoctoral applicants should email a current CV, sample publication or manuscript, short description of research interests (2 pages or less), and names of 3 references. Undergraduate applicants should have a strong mathematical or computational background, broad knowledge in statistical methods, and experience with large data sets. For example, see 2016 and 2017 machine learning projects. oTree applicants should have Django, Python, and web development experience. Applicants should also have leadership and organizational skills as the position may require playing a leadership role as well as supervising research assistants.


Former undergraduate research group members have matriculated to Economics PhDs at MIT, Harvard, Stanford, NYU, Northwestern, Michigan, Duke, and Carnegie Mellon, JD and LLMs at Yale and Harvard, Harvard Anthropology PhD, University of Chicago MD, Harvard Applied Math/Economics and Applied Math/Biology MSs, LSE Mathematical Economics/Econometrics MSc, and ETH Zurich Biostatistics MS.

Other undergraduates have formed startups like Hunch, become CFO at Stripe, and obtained partnership at Thrive Capital, tenure track jobs at University of Chicago Economics, Harvard Business School, fellowships at Harvard Society of Fellows, Climenko Program, Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, and Center for Research on Computation and Society, University of Chicago Becker Friedman Institute, and Harvard Cambridge Scholarship, and positions at Microsoft, Google, AQR Capital Management, Blackstone, and Morgan Stanley.

Former law research group members have obtained Tenth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit, and SDNY clerkships and positions at Sullivan & Cromwell, Gibson Dunn, Morrison & Foerster, Orrick, Blackrock, and the SEC.

Former graduate, post-graduate, and other research group members have become Chief Scientist at Sense Networks and YP Mobile Labs, obtained tenure at Yale Psychology/Economics/Cognitive Science, University of Pennsylvania Law, and Berlin HWR Statistics, tenure track positions at Harvard Business School, NYU Stern, Zurich Economics, Cleveland Clinic, and Northwestern Sociology/Communication, faculty positions at NYU Courant, and positions at Nvidia, Twitter, Facebook, World Bank, Bloomberg CTO, and biotech startups.

Current members include MS/PhDs at NYU Courant Institute in Mathematics, Computer Science, Scientific Computing, Data Science, and Mathematical Finance, TSE, and Microsoft alumni. Currently advising LexAI.


oTree is used in Australia (Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth, Queensland), Austria (Innsbruck, Vienna), Belgium (Leige), Canada (Guelph, Toronto), China (Beijing), Czech (Prague), Finland (Aalto), France (CReA Defense, Lille, Montpellier, Nice, Toulouse), Germany (GfK Marketing Research, Mannheim, Munich), Hungary (Academy of Sciences), Italy (Bologna, European University Institute), Japan (Tokyo), Kenya (Nairobi), Korea (Seoul), Netherlands (Amsterdam, Maastricht, Nijmegen, Tilburg, United Nations University, Utrecht), Norway (Norwegian School of Economics), Russia (RANEPA), South Africa (Pretoria), Spain (Madrid, Malaga, Valencia, Zaragoza), Sweden (Gothenburg, Stockholm), Switzerland (ETH, Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich), U.K. (Cambridge, Lancaster, Oxford), and U.S. (Boston College, Carnegie-Mellon, Colby, Columbia, Google, Iowa State, Michigan State, Northwestern, NYU, Ohio State, Princeton, Treasury Department, UC-Irvine, UCSC, UCSD, University of Chicago, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Yale) (last update in 2016), in conjunction with ERC Horizon 2020 project to design software for large-scale networks, voting, macroeconomics, and mixed agent-based experiments in economics and psychology, and used with subject recruitment platform for global experiments. 500+ users on forum with 5 posts/day.


Daniel L Chen
21 allée de Brienne
31015 Toulouse Cedex 6
Google scholar profile