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The Determinants of Punishment: Deterrence, Incapacitation and Vengeance

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  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Bruce Sacerdote

Abstract

Does the economic model of optimal punishment explain the variation in the sentencing of murderers? As the model predicts, we find that murderers with a high expected probability of recidivism receive longer sentences. Sentences are longest in murder types where apprehension rates are low, and where deterrence elasticities appear to be high. However, sentences respond to victim characteristics in a way that is hard to reconcile with optimal punishment. In particular, victim characteristics are important determinants of sentencing among vehicular homicides, where victims are basically random and where the optimal punishment model predicts that victim characteristics should be ignored. Among vehicular homicides, drivers who kill women get 56 percent longer sentences. Drivers who kill blacks get 53 percent shorter sentences.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7676.

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Date of creation: Apr 2000
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Publication status: published as Sacerdote, Bruce and Edward Glaeser. "Vengeance, Deterrence, and Incapacitation." The Journal of Legal Studies 32, 2 (June 2003).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7676

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  1. Steven D. Levitt, 1995. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Policeon Crime," NBER Working Papers 4991, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Stigler, George J, 1970. "The Optimum Enforcement of Laws," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(3), pages 526-36, May-June.
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Cited by:
  1. Goodman, John C. & Porter, Philip, 2002. "Is the criminal justice system just?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 25-39, July.
  2. Ann Dryden Witte & Robert Witt, 2001. "What We Spend and What We Get: Public and Private Provision of Crime Prevention," NBER Working Papers 8204, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Nicolas Baumard, 2011. "Punishment is not a group adaptation," Mind and Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 10(1), pages 1-26, June.
  4. Di Tella, Rafael & Dubra, Juan, 2008. "Crime and punishment in the "American Dream"," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(7), pages 1564-1584, July.
  5. David S. Lee & Justin McCrary, 2005. "Crime, Punishment, and Myopia," NBER Working Papers 11491, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Christian Seidl & Stefan Traub & Andrea Morone, 2004. "Relative Deprivation, Personal Income Satisfaction, and Average Well-Being under Different Income Distributions," Experimental 0401004, EconWPA.
  7. Parikshit Ghosh, 2009. "Making the Punishment Fit the Crime or Taliban Justice? Optimal Penalties without Commitment," Working Papers id:2014, eSocialSciences.
  8. Edward L. Glaeser, 2005. "The Political Economy of Hatred," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(1), pages 45-86, January.
  9. Jeffrey D. Kubik & John R. Moran, 2001. "Lethal Elections: Gubernatorial Politics and the Timing of Executions," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 40, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.

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