Selected theses 2022-23

Team Versus Player? A Study of Baseball Salary Arbitration and the Arbitrator Exchangeability Hypothesis

Devan Fink '23

I assess the decisions of arbitrators in Major League Baseball (MLB) salary arbitration hearings under the arbitrator exchangeability hypothesis. Salary arbitration occurs when a player, typically one with more than three, but fewer than six, years of major league service, cannot reach an agreement with his team on a contract for a given year. When this happens, the player and team go to an arbitration hearing. In a hearing, each side presents oral arguments in front of a panel of three independent arbitrators, proclaiming why the arbitrators should rule in their favor. The arbitrators then either decide to award the player his request or the team's offer as his salary for the upcoming season. Arbitrators are not permitted to issue compromises. Historically, teams have won roughly 60 percent of hearings, suggesting that arbitrators might have a pro-team bias. However, my research demonstrates that teams should have won approximately 70 percent of hearings, indicating that arbitrators might actually favor the players. Because there is a statistically-significant difference between the 60 percent observed team win rate and the 70 percent expected team win rate, my results suggest the baseball arbitrators behave in a manner that is inconsistent with the arbitrator exchangeability hypothesis, with a resulting pro-player skew.

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What Makes an Impartial Jury? Perceptions of Jury Impartiality and Court Legitimacy

Josh Freitag '23

In light of decreasing trust in courts at all levels of the American justice system, it is more important than ever to understand what affects people's perceptions of the courts as fair, just, and legitimate. The Black Lives Matter protests highlighted a racial element to perceptions of impartiality in the jury system. Existing literature reveals a complex historical relationship between race and the jury, but little research has been done on public perceptions of race in the jury box.

With a novel two-experiment design using a survey instrument and a half White–half Black respondent sample pool fielded using Prolific, I examine the relationships between race, jury impartiality, procedural justice, and court legitimacy. I find that descriptive representation is important in the crafting of impartial juries for Black defendants, with the experimental provision of a Black defendant resulting in a statistically significant increase in the number of Black jurors that respondents select to compose an impartial jury. However, a basic conception of descriptive representation that juries should look like the defendant they are judging does not hold. By employing a conjoint vignette design, I find a significant negative effect on perceived fairness when a jury is composed of mostly one race regardless of defendant race. This negative penalty is stronger for White juries than for Black juries. Mixed race juries are seen as more fair than both mostly one race juries and in cases where juror race is withheld. The effects of perceived fairness generally fail to carry over to support for the courts as legitimate institutions, suggesting a durable diffuse support for the courts.

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