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Empirical Study of Criminal Punishment

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  • Levitt, Steven D.
  • Miles, Thomas J.

Abstract

This chapter reviews empirical studies of criminal punishment and the criminal justice system by economists. Since the modern exposition of the economic model of criminal behavior, empirical economists have tested its predictions using variation in expected criminal punishments. In the past decade, empirical economists have made substantial progress in identifying the effects of punishment on crime by finding new ways to break the simultaneity of crime rates and punishments. The new empirical evidence generally supports the deterrence model but shows that incapacitation influences crime rates, too. Evidence of the crime-reducing effect of the scale of policing and incarceration is consistent across different methodological approaches. Estimates of the deterrent effect of other penalties, such as capital punishment, are less robust and suggest that claims of large effects from these policies may be spurious. More work is needed to assess the relative importance of deterrence and incapacitation. Empirical economists have made less progress in studying the criminal justice system itself. Data availability constrains the economists' ability to resolve the simultaneity of criminal justice institutions and crime rates, and this limitation hampers rigorous empirical investigation of the incentive effects of numerous criminal justice institutions and procedures. This area remains an important avenue for future empirical research.

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This chapter was published in:

  • A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell (ed.), 2007. "Handbook of Law and Economics," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1.
    This item is provided by Elsevier in its series Handbook of Law and Economics with number 1-07.

    Handle: RePEc:eee:lawchp:1-07

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    Web page: http://www.elsevierdirect.com/product.jsp?isbn=9780444512352

    Related research

    Keywords: Law and Education;

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    Cited by:
    1. Steeve Mongrain & Joanne Roberts, 2007. "Plea Bargaining with Budgetary Constraints," Discussion Papers dp07-07, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
    2. Tim Friehe, 2008. "Correlated payoffs in the inspection game: some theory and an application to corruption," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 137(1), pages 127-143, October.
    3. Mari Rege & Torbjørn Skardhamar & Kjetil Telle & Mark Votruba, 2009. "The effect of plant closure on crime," Discussion Papers 593, Research Department of Statistics Norway.
    4. Simona Benedettini & Antonio Nicita, 2009. "Deterrence, Incapacitation and Enforcement Design. Evidence from Traffic Enforcement in Italy," Department of Economics University of Siena 564, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    5. Thomas J. Miceli, 2009. "Deterrence and Incapacitation Models of Criminal Punishment: Can the Twain Meet?," Working papers 2009-25, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    6. Drago, Francesco & Galbiati, Roberto & Vertova, Pietro, 2007. "The Deterrent Effects of Prison: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2912, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Gavrilova, Evelina, 2014. "A Partner in Crime: Assortative Matching and Bias in the Crime Market," Discussion Papers 2014/25, Department of Business and Management Science, Norwegian School of Economics.
    8. Menusch Khadjavi, 2014. "Deterrence Works for Criminals," Kiel Working Papers 1938, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
    9. Lin, Ming-Jen, 2009. "More police, less crime: Evidence from US state data," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 73-80, June.
    10. Drago, Francesco & Galbiati, Roberto & Vertova, Pietro, 2008. "Prison Conditions and Recidivism," IZA Discussion Papers 3395, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. Philip J. Cook, 2008. "Assessing Urban Crime And Its Control: An Overview," NBER Working Papers 13781, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Volokh, Alexander, 2010. "Privatization, free riding, and industry-expanding lobbying," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 62-70, March.

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