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Congressional Mobilization of Private Litigants: Evidence from the Civil Rights Act of 1991

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Levels of private litigation enforcing statutes are critically determined by legislative choice. I set out a theoretical framework for understanding how legislators purposefully influence the potential economic value of statutory claims, thereby establishing a market for enforcement consistent with legislative preferences. To test the theory, I examine the effects of the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1991, which increased the value of employment discrimination claims under the CRA of 1964, and find that the law increased the number of claims filed. The origins and legislative history of the law also reveal that Congress utilized economic incentives as a policy instrument to purposefully increase private litigation, with a high degree of self-consciousness, in the course of conflict with other political actors over control of civil rights policy.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of California

Publication date: 2009-03-01

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