Working Papers

Email me at susanneschwarz(at) if you want a copy of the working papers listed below.

“(Sex) Crime and Punishment: How Legally Irrelevant Details Influence Crime Reporting and Sanctioning Decisions” (Under Review)

—with Matthew Baum & Dara Kay Cohen

Abstract: Recent prominent rape cases have raised concerns that the US exhibits a “culture of rape,” wherein victims are often disbelieved and blamed. We present an empirical conceptualization of rape culture, outlining four key features: blaming victims, empathizing with perpetrators, assuming the victims’ consent, and questioning victims’ credibility. In a series of experimental studies on over 3,400 respondents, we evaluate the relative impact of different types of rape culture biases on the reporting of rape, and how it is punished. We test how participants’ exposure to legally irrelevant details related to rape culture affects their decision-making. We find that exposure to certain details—relating to the victim’s consent and credibility—significantly decreases participants’ propensities to recommend a rape case be reported to police or to advocate for a severe punishment for the perpetrator. The results shed new light on the impact of bias on how well public institutions represent constituents.

***Note that this paper is part of a larger research agenda, in which we explore biased news reports on rape and sexual assault and their effect on rape reporting and responses of law enforcement.

Note: Main results from the paper. Coefficient plots display the estimated effects of randomly assigned case details on the probability that a case is recommended for reporting (left panel) or selected for more severe punishment (right panel).

Media Coverage:

  • Monkey Cage Article summarizing our research on rape culture and its implications for how the Kavanaugh allegations were perceived


“Gender and Candidate Choice: Re-Evaluating Evidence from Conjoint Experiments” (Under Review)

—with Alexander Coppock

Abstract: Candidate choice survey experiments in the form of conjoint or vignette experiments have become a standard part of the political science toolkit for understanding voters’ multidimensional preferences over candidates. These experiments have been used to study many candidate attributes, such as policy position, race, age, political or career experience, attractiveness, and political party. By our count, the most common attribute studied in these experiments is candidate gender. We collect 42 such experiments and reanalyze them using a standardized statistical approach. Holding other candidate features fixed by design, female candidates are on average preferred by respondents by approximately 2.4 percentage points. We further investigate how this preference varies with respondent gender and partisanship and other candidate characteristics. We find some evidence of heterogeneity as the female preference appears to be somewhat larger for white (versus non-white) candidates, and among female (vs. male) as well as Democratic (versus Republican) respondents. We also use observational data from low-profile non-partisan judicial elections in Colorado to test whether the pro-female preference replicates in a real-world context that closely resembles the experimental setup of many studies included in our meta-analysis.

Note:  A meta-analysis of candidate-choice experiments that randomly assigned candidate gender.

Note: A meta-analysis of candidate-choice experiments that randomly assigned candidate gender.


“Welfare State Experiences and Political Participation: Evidence from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study”

Abstract: How do individuals’ experiences in the US welfare state shape political and civic engagement? As a growing number of Americans rely on government social services at some point over the course of their lives, scholars have taken an interest in understanding how enrollment in these welfare programs may affect mass politics. Yet, the political consequences of individuals’ experiences within welfare policy regimes, rather than specific welfare policies, remain understudied. In this paper, I distinguish between two welfare policy regimes—poverty relief and public insurance—to highlight how differences in welfare state experiences across regimes may yield positive or negative consequences for political life.

In this paper, I use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to show that enrollment in poverty relief programs is associated with a lowered propensity for political participation and voting—a finding I replicated with both multivariate regression models as well as an analysis based on coarsened exact matching. I also find some evidence for the compounding effects of welfare state experiences: the more poverty relief programs individuals are enrolled in, and the longer they benefit from them, the more politically disengaged they seem to become. Conversely, enrollment in programs associated with the public insurance regime seems to have little to no effect on political participation and voting.

Note:  Graph displays predicted probability of voting for typical respondents in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing panel study.

Note: Graph displays predicted probability of voting for typical respondents in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing panel study.