Crime, punishment, and prejudice
AbstractWe examine the link between the penalties used to punish convicted criminals and judicial prejudice against defendants. In our model, agents choose to commit crimes if their privately observed utility from doing so is high enough. A crime generates noisy evidence, and defendants are convicted when the realized amount of evidence is sufficiently strong to establish the probability of guilt beyond a fixed threshold. We show that if convicted offenders are incarcerated, poorer individuals face a strong prior prejudice in trials and are therefore convicted with less evidence than richer individuals. At the same time, they commit crimes more frequently. Penalties such as monetary fines can eliminate this bias, but may also reverse it. We fully characterize the penalty schedule that guarantees an unbiased equilbrium. We extend the model such that agents also differ in characteristics such as race or gender. We show biased outcomes (targeted at subgroups of the population) may still exist, even if all members of the population are ex-ante alike in their economic characteristics.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.
Volume (Year): 93 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1-2 (February)
Contact details of provider:
Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578
Crime Punishment Statistical discrimination Stereotypes Prejudice;
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Gary S. Becker, 1968.
"Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
- Nagin, Daniel & Waldfogel, Joel, 1998.
"The Effect of Conviction on Income Through the Life Cycle,"
International Review of Law and Economics,
Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 25-40, March.
- Daniel Nagin & Joel Waldfogel, 1993. "The Effect of Convicton on Income Through the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 4551, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Raphael, Steven & WINTER-EBMER, RUDOLF, 1998.
"Identifying the Effect of Unemployment on Crime,"
University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series
qt5hb4h56g, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
- Holzer, Harry J & Raphael, Steven & Stoll, Michael A, 2006. "Perceived Criminality, Criminal Background Checks, and the Racial Hiring Practices of Employers," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(2), pages 451-80, October.
- Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1984.
"The optimal use of fines and imprisonment,"
Journal of Public Economics,
Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 89-99, June.
- Steven Shavell & A. Mitchell Polinsky, 2000.
"The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law,"
Journal of Economic Literature,
American Economic Association, vol. 38(1), pages 45-76, March.
- Verdier, T. & Zenou, Y., 2000.
"Racial Beliefs , Location and the Causes of Crime,"
DELTA Working Papers
2000-26, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
- Verdier, Thierry & Zenou, Yves, 2003. "Racial Beliefs, Location and the Causes of Crime," Working Paper Series 602, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
- Verdier, T. & Zenou, Y., 2001. "Racial beliefs, location and the causes of crime," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 0101, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
- Verdier, Thierry & Zenou, Yves, 2000. "Racial Beliefs, Location And The Causes Of Crime," CEPR Discussion Papers 2455, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Nicola Persico, 2002. "Racial Profiling, Fairness, and Effectiveness of Policing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1472-1497, December.
- Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-61, September.
- Grogger, Jeffrey, 1995. "The Effect of Arrests on the Employment and Earnings of Young Men," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(1), pages 51-71, February.
- Jeff Grogger, 1997.
"Market Wages and Youth Crime,"
NBER Working Papers
5983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Lott, John R, Jr, 1992. "An Attempt at Measuring the Total Monetary Penalty from Drug Convictions: The Importance of an Individual's Reputation," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(1), pages 159-87, January.
- Georgakopoulos, Nicholas L., 2004. "Self-fulfilling impressions of criminality: unintentional race profiling," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 169-190, June.
- David Bjerk, 2004.
"Racial Profiling, Statistical Discrimination, and the Effect of a Colorblind Policy on the Crime Rate,"
Department of Economics Working Papers
2004-11, McMaster University.
- David Bjerk, 2007. "Racial Profiling, Statistical Discrimination, and the Effect of a Colorblind Policy on the Crime Rate," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 9(3), pages 521-545, 06.
- Bar-Ilan, Avner & Sacerdote, Bruce, 2004. "The Response of Criminals and Noncriminals to Fines," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(1), pages 1-17, April.
- Levitt, Steven D., 1997. "Incentive compatibility constraints as an explanation for the use of prison sentences instead of fines," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 179-192, June.
- Sah, R.K., 1990.
"Social Osmosis And Patterns Of Crime: A Dynamic Economic Analysis,"
609, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
- Nicolas Marceau & Steeve Mongrain, 2007.
"Competition in Law Enforcement and Capital Allocation,"
dp07-03, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
- Marceau, Nicolas & Mongrain, Steeve, 2011. "Competition in law enforcement and capital allocation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 136-147, January.
- Nicolas Marceau & Steeve Mongrain, 2004. "Competition in Law Enforcement and Capital Allocation," Cahiers de recherche 0408, CIRPEE.
- Mechoulan, Stéphane & Sahuguet, Nicolas, 2011. "Assessing Racial Discrimination in Parole Release," CEPR Discussion Papers 8506, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wendy Shamier).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.