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An Experimental Test of Criminal Behavior Among Juveniles and Young Adults

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  • Michael S. Visser
  • William T. Harbaugh
  • Naci H. Mocan

Abstract

We report results from economic experiments that provide a direct test of the hypothesis that criminal behavior responds rationally to changes in the possible rewards and in the probability and severity of punishment. The experiments involve decisions that are best described as petty larceny, and are done using high school and college students who can anonymously take real money from each other. We find that decisions about whether and how much to steal are, in general, rational and responsive to the variations in tradeoffs, and sometimes, though not always, to the overall availability of criminal opportunities.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12507.

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Date of creation: Sep 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12507

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  1. H. Naci Mocan & Daniel I. Rees, 1999. "Economic Conditions, Deterrence and Juvenile Crime: Evidence from Micro Data," NBER Working Papers 7405, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., . "A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation," Chapters in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  3. Steven D. Levitt, 2002. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effects of Police on Crime: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1244-1250, September.
  4. Afriat, Sidney N, 1972. "Efficiency Estimation of Production Function," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 13(3), pages 568-98, October.
  5. H. Naci Mocan & Stephen C. Billups & Jody Overland, 2000. "A Dynamic Model of Differential Human Capital and Criminal Activity," NBER Working Papers 7584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  7. Andreoni,J. & Harbaugh,W.T., 2005. "Power indices for revealed preference tests," Working papers 10, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  8. Jonathan Gruber & Jonathan Zinman, 2001. "Youth Smoking in the United States: Evidence and Implications," NBER Chapters, in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 69-120 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. William T. Harbaugh & Kate Krause & Timothy R. Berry, 2001. "GARP for Kids: On the Development of Rational Choice Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1539-1545, December.
  10. Farrell, Susan & Manning, Willard G. & Finch, Michael D., 2003. "Alcohol dependence and the price of alcoholic beverages," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 117-147, January.
  11. Varian, Hal R, 1982. "The Nonparametric Approach to Demand Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 945-73, July.
  12. H. Naci Mocan & Hope Corman, 2000. "A Time-Series Analysis of Crime, Deterrence, and Drug Abuse in New York City," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 584-604, June.
  13. Sippel, Reinhard, 1997. "An Experiment on the Pure Theory of Consumer's Behaviour," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(444), pages 1431-44, September.
  14. James Andreoni & John Miller, 2002. "Giving According to GARP: An Experimental Test of the Consistency of Preferences for Altruism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 737-753, March.
  15. Isaac Ehrlich, 1996. "Crime, Punishment, and the Market for Offenses," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 43-67, Winter.
  16. 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.
  17. Meyers, Samuel L, Jr, 1983. "Estimating the Economic Model of Crime: Employment versus Punishment Effects," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(1), pages 157-66, February.
  18. Cornwell, Christopher & Trumbull, William N, 1994. "Estimating the Economic Model of Crime with Panel Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(2), pages 360-66, May.
  19. Block, M K & Heineke, J M, 1975. "A Labor Theoretic Analysis of the Criminal Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(3), pages 314-25, June.
  20. William Harbaugh & Kate Krause & Timothy Berry, 2001. "Garp for kids: On the development of rational choice behavior," Artefactual Field Experiments 00056, The Field Experiments Website.
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Cited by:
  1. Matteo Rizzolli & Luca Stanca, 2009. "Judicial Errors and Crime Deterrence: Theory and Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 170, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Aug 2009.
  2. Naci Mocan & Erdal Tekin & Lan Liang, . "Do Adolescents with Emotional or Behavioral Problems Respond to Cigarette Prices?," Departmental Working Papers 2008-06, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.

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