Crystal S. Yang

Assistant Professor of Law

Griswold 301

617-496-4477

Assistant: Jill Smith / 617-496-2865

Biography

Crystal Yang’s teaching and research interests center around empirical law and economics, particularly in the areas of criminal law and procedure and consumer bankruptcy. Her current research includes empirical projects on prosecutorial decision-making under resource constraints, the impact of local labor markets on criminal recidivism, the effects of the bail system on defendants' short and long-term outcomes, and the impact of bankruptcy protection on alleviating financial distress.

From 2014-2015, Professor Yang served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts. Professor Yang graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2013, where she was a John M. Olin and Terence M. Considine Fellow, and recipient of the John M. Olin Prize. She also received her Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 2013 and was a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She earned an A.B. in economics summa cum laude and an A.M. in statistics from Harvard University in 2008.

Areas of Interest

Crystal S. Yang, Local Labor Markets and Criminal Recidivism, 147 J. Pub. Econ. 16 (2017).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement
,
Empirical Legal Studies
,
Law & Economics
Type: Article
Abstract
This paper estimates the impact of local labor market conditions on criminal recidivism using rich administrative prison records on over four million offenders released from 43 states between 2000 and 2013. Exploiting each offender’s exact date of release, I find that being released to a county with higher low-skilled employment and higher average low-skilled wages significantly decreases the risk of recidivism. The impact of higher wages on recidivism is larger for both black offenders and first-time offenders, and in sectors that report being more willing to hire ex-offenders. These results are robust to individual and county-level controls, policing and corrections activity, and do not appear to be driven by changes in the composition of released offenders during good or bad economic times.
Crystal S. Yang, Resource Constraints and the Criminal Justice System: Evidence From Judicial Vacancies, 8 AEJ: Econ. Pol'y 289 (2016).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Criminal Prosecution
,
Sentencing & Punishment
,
Empirical Legal Studies
,
Judges & Jurisprudence
Type: Article
Abstract
Ten percent of federal judgeships are currently vacant, yet little is known on the impact of these vacancies on criminal justice outcomes. Using judge deaths and pension eligibility as instruments for vacancies, I find that prosecutors dismiss more cases during vacancies. Prosecuted defendants are more likely to plead guilty and less likely to be incarcerated during vacancies, with defendants who are detained pretrial more likely to be incarcerated. The current rate of vacancies has resulted in 1,000 fewer prison inmates annually compared to a fully-staffed court system, a 1.5 percent decrease.
Crystal S. Yang, Free at Last? Judicial Discretion and Racial Disparities in Federal Sentencing, 44 J. Legal Stud. 75 (2015).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Government & Politics
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Sentencing & Punishment
,
Criminal Prosecution
,
Race & Ethnicity
,
Empirical Legal Studies
,
Judges & Jurisprudence
Type: Article
Abstract
The federal sentencing guidelines were created to reduce unwarranted sentencing disparities among similar defendants. This paper explores the impact of increased judicial discretion on racial disparities in sentencing after the guidelines were struck down in United States v. Booker (543 U.S. 220 [2005]). Using data on the universe of federal defendants, I find that black defendants received 2 months more in prison compared with their white counterparts after Booker, a 4 percent increase in average sentence length. To identify the sources of racial disparities, I construct a data set linking judges to defendants. Exploiting the random assignment of cases to judges, I find that racial disparities after Booker were greater among judges appointed after Booker, which suggests acculturation to the guidelines by judges with experience sentencing under a mandatory-guidelines regime. Prosecutors also responded to increased judicial discretion after Booker by charging black defendants with binding mandatory minimum sentences.
Will Dobbie, Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham & Crystal S. Yang, Consumer Bankruptcy and Financial Health, Rev. Econ. & Stat. (forthcoming 2017).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Consumer Finance
Sub-Categories:
Consumer Bankruptcy Law
,
Empirical Legal Studies
Type: Article
Abstract
This paper estimates the effect of Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection on post-filing financial outcomes using a new dataset linking bankruptcy filings to credit bureau records. Our empirical strategy uses the leniency of randomly-assigned judges as an instrument for Chapter 13 protection. Over the first five post-filing years, we find that Chapter 13 protection decreases an index measuring adverse financial events such as civil judgments and repossessions by 0.316 standard deviations, increases the probability of being a homeowner by 13.2 percentage points, and increases credit scores by 14.9 points. Chapter 13 protection has little impact on open unsecured debt, but decreases the amount of debt in collections by $1,315.
Crystal S. Yang, Designing an Optimal Bail System, N.Y.U. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2017).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement
Type: Article
Crystal S. Yang, Does Public Assistance Reduce Recidivism?, Am. Econ. Rev.: Papers & Proc. (forthcoming 2017).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Government & Politics
,
Discrimination & Civil Rights
Sub-Categories:
Social Welfare Law
,
Poverty Law
,
Government Benefits
Type: Article
Will Dobbie, Jacob Goldin & Crystal S. Yang, The Effects of Pre-Trial Detention on Conviction, Future Crime, and Employment: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges (Nat'l Bureau of Econ. Research, Working Paper No. 22511, 2016).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement
,
Sentencing & Punishment
,
Empirical Legal Studies
Type: Other
Abstract
Over 20 percent of prison and jail inmates in the United States are currently awaiting trial, but little is known about the impact of pre-trial detention on defendants. This paper uses the detention tendencies of quasi-randomly assigned bail judges to estimate the causal effects of pre-trial detention on subsequent defendant outcomes. Using data from administrative court and tax records, we find that being detained before trial significantly increases the probability of a conviction, primarily through an increase in guilty pleas. Pre-trial detention has no detectable effect on future crime, but decreases pre-trial crime and failures to appear in court. We also find suggestive evidence that pre-trial detention decreases formal sector employment and the receipt of employment- and tax-related government benefits. We argue that these results are consistent with (i) pre-trial detention weakening defendants' bargaining position during plea negotiations, and (ii) a criminal conviction lowering defendants' prospects in the formal labor market.
Crystal S. Yang, Have Interjudge Sentencing Disparities Increased in an Advisory Guidelines Regime? Evidence from Booker, 89 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1268 (2014).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Government & Politics
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Criminal Prosecution
,
Sentencing & Punishment
,
Empirical Legal Studies
,
Judges & Jurisprudence
Type: Article
Abstract
The Federal Sentencing Guidelines were promulgated in response to concerns of widespread disparities in sentencing. After almost two decades of determinate sentencing, the Guidelines were rendered advisory in United States v. Booker. How has greater judicial discretion affected interjudge disparities, or differences in sentencing outcomes that are attributable to the mere happenstance of the sentencing judge assigned? This Article utilizes new data covering almost 400,000 criminal defendants linked to sentencing judges to undertake the first national empirical analysis of interjudge disparities after Booker. The results are striking: Interjudge sentencing disparities have doubled since the Guidelines became advisory. Some of the recent increase in disparities can be attributed to differential sentencing behavior associated with judge demographic characteristics, with Democratic and female judges being more likely to exercise their enhanced discretion after Booker. Newer judges appointed post-Booker also appear less anchored to the Guidelines than judges with experience sentencing under the mandatory Guidelines regime. Disentangling the effects of various actors on sentencing disparities, I find that prosecutorial charging is likely a prominent source of disparities. Rather than charging mandatory minimums uniformly across eligible cases, prosecutors appear to selectively apply mandatory minimums in response to the identity of the sentencing judge, potentially through superseding indictments. Drawing on this empirical evidence, this Article suggests that recent sentencing proposals calling for a reduction in judicial discretion in order to reduce disparities may overlook the substantial contribution of prosecutors.

Education History

Current Courses

Course Catalog View

Griswold 301

617-496-4477

Assistant: Jill Smith / 617-496-2865