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The Deterrence Effect of Prison: Dynamic Theory and Evidence

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  • McCrary, Justin
  • Lee, David S.
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    Abstract

    Using administrative, longitudinal data on felony arrests in Florida, we exploit the discontinuous increase in the punitiveness of criminal sanctions at 18 to estimate the deterrence effect of incarceration. Our analysis suggests a 2 percent decline in the log-odds of offending at 18, with standard errors ruling out declines of 11 percent or more. We interpret these magnitudes using a stochastic dynamic extension of Becker's (1968) model of criminal behavior. Calibrating the model to match key empirical moments, we conclude that deterrence elasticities with respect to sentence lengths are no more negative than -0.13 for young offenders.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics in its series Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series with number qt2gh1r30h.

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    Date of creation: 31 Jul 2009
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    Handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt2gh1r30h

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    Cited by:
    1. Entorf, Horst, 2012. "Certainty and Severity of Sanctions in Classical and Behavioral Models of Deterrence: A Survey," IZA Discussion Papers 6516, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Entorf, Horst, 2011. "Turning 18: What a Difference Application of Adult Criminal Law Makes," MPRA Paper 29811, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Matteo Cervellati & Paolo Vanin, 2010. "”Thou shalt not covet ...”: Prohibitions, Temptation and Moral Values," Working Papers 2010.54, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    4. Derek Neal & Armin Rick, 2014. "The Prison Boom and the Lack of Black Progress after Smith and Welch," NBER Working Papers 20283, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Entorf, Horst, 2012. "Expected recidivism among young offenders: Comparing specific deterrence under juvenile and adult criminal law," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 414-429.
    6. Akerlund, David & Golsteyn, Bart H.H. & Grönqvist, Hans & Lindahl, Lena, 2014. "Time Preferences and Criminal Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 8168, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Giovanni Mastrobuoni & Paolo Pinotti, 2014. "The Ups and Downs in Women's Employment: Shifting Composition or Behavior from 1970 to 2010?," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 14-212, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    8. Aaron Chalfin & Justin McCrary, 2013. "The Effect of Police on Crime: New Evidence from U.S. Cities, 1960-2010," NBER Working Papers 18815, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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