Structure and Content in the United States Code

17 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2020

See all articles by Keith Carlson

Keith Carlson

Dartmouth College

Faraz Dadgostari

University of Virginia

Michael A. Livermore

University of Virginia School of Law

Daniel Rockmore

Dartmouth College - Department of Mathematics; Dartmouth College - Department of Computer Science

Date Written: September 10, 2020

Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between statutory structure—as realized through hierarchical organization and a cross-reference citation network—and semantic content. We report several novel descriptive statistics concerning the United States Code (USC), including the results of the first application to this corpus of the machine learning technique of topic modeling. We find that the topic model performs quite well in discovering relevant legal categories, as expressed in the subject-matter organization of the USC. We estimate relationships between formal structure and topic content and find that the assortativity of “titles” (the highest level hierarchy within the USC) and the assortativity of related topics are highly similar. We also examine the degree of mutual information between statutory structure and content and find that alternative machine learning techniques are able to recover information about structure from content, indicating some level of mutual information. Our analysis can be used to develop superior measures of legal complexity with the potential to improve studies that seek to understand the importance of legal complexity for social outcomes (such as compliance costs or economic growth). Our work also has potential applications for the study of law search and in developing tools to facilitate public access to the law.

Suggested Citation

Carlson, Keith and Dadgostari, Faraz and Livermore, Michael A. and Rockmore, Daniel, Structure and Content in the United States Code (September 10, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3690508 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3690508

Keith Carlson

Dartmouth College ( email )

Department of Sociology
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

Faraz Dadgostari

University of Virginia ( email )

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Michael A. Livermore (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

Daniel Rockmore

Dartmouth College - Department of Mathematics ( email )

United States

Dartmouth College - Department of Computer Science ( email )

United States

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