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An Empirical Analysis of Imprisoning Drug Offenders

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  • Ilyana Kuziemko
  • Steven D. Levitt

Abstract

The number of prisoners incarcerated on drug-related offenses rose fifteen-fold between 1980 and 2000. This paper provides the first systematic empirical analysis of the implications of that dramatic shift in public policy. We show that the increase in drug prisoners led to reductions in expected time served for other crimes, especially for less serious offenses. Reductions in time served, however, increased other crimes by no more than a few percent. Moreover, incarcerating drug offenders is found to be almost as effective in reducing violent and property crime as locking up other types of offenders. We estimate that cocaine prices are 10-15 percent higher today as a consequence of increases in drug punishment since 1985. Based on previous estimates of the price elasticity of demand for cocaine, this implies a reduction in cocaine consumed of as much as 20 percent.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8489.

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Date of creation: Sep 2001
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Publication status: published as Kuziemko, Ilyana and Steven D. Levitt. "An Empirical Analysis Of Imprisoning Drug Offenders," Journal of Public Economics, 2004, v88(9-10,Aug), 2043-2066.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8489

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  1. Jeffrey A. Miron & Jeffrey Zwiebel, 1995. "The Economic Case against Drug Prohibition," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 175-192, Fall.
  2. Levitt, Steven D, 1998. "Why Do Increased Arrest Rates Appear to Reduce Crime: Deterrence, Incapacitation, or Measurement Error?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(3), pages 353-72, July.
  3. Jeffrey A. Miron, 1999. "Violence and the U.S. Prohibition of Drugs and Alcohol," NBER Working Papers 6950, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. David L. Sollars, 1992. "Assumptions and Consequences of the War on Drugs: An Economic Analysis," Review of Policy Research, Policy Studies Organization, vol. 11(1), pages 26-39, 03.
  5. Michael Grossman & Frank J. Chaloupka & Charles C. Brown, 1996. "The Demand for Cocaine by Young Adults: A Rational Addiction Approach," NBER Working Papers 5713, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Rosalie Liccardo Pacula & Michael Grossman & Frank J. Chaloupka & Patrick M. O’Malley & Lloyd D. Johnston & Matthew C. Farrelly, 2001. "Marijuana and Youth," NBER Chapters, in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 271-326 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • R. L. Pacula & M. Grossman & F. J. Chaloupka & P. M. O'Malley & L. Johnston & M. C. Farrelly, 2000. "Marijuana and Youth," NBER Working Papers 7703, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Jeffrey DeSimone, 1999. "The Effect of Cocaine Prices on Crime," Working Papers 9907, East Carolina University, Department of Economics.
  8. Levitt, Steven D, 1996. "The Effect of Prison Population Size on Crime Rates: Evidence from Prison Overcrowding Litigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 319-51, May.
  9. Frank J. Chaloupka & Michael Grossman & John A. Tauras, 1998. "The Demand for Cocaine and Marijuana by Youth," NBER Working Papers 6411, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. Steven D. Levitt & Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, 1998. "An Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang's Finances," NBER Working Papers 6592, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Bruce L. Benson & David W. Rasmussen, 1991. "Relationship Between Illicit Drug Enforcement Policy And Property Crimes," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 9(4), pages 106-115, October.
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  13. Liu, Jin-Long & Liu, Jin-Tan & Hammitt, James K. & Chou, Shin-Yi, 1999. "The price elasticity of opium in Taiwan, 1914-1942," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 795-810, December.
  14. Sohler Everingham, Susan M. & Peter Rydell, C. & Caulkins, Jonathan P., 1995. "Cocaine consumption in the United States: Estimating past trends and future scenarios," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 305-314, December.
  15. Farrelly, Matthew C. & Bray, Jeremy W. & Zarkin, Gary A. & Wendling, Brett W., 2001. "The joint demand for cigarettes and marijuana: evidence from the National Household Surveys on Drug Abuse," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 51-68, January.
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  18. Lee, Li Way, 1993. "Would Harassing Drug Users Work?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(5), pages 939-59, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Joshua Congdon-Hohman, 2011. "The Lasting Effects of Crime: The Relationship of Discovered Methamphetamine Laboratories and Home Values," Working Papers 1114, College of the Holy Cross, Department of Economics.
  2. Entorf, H. & Winker, P., 2008. "Investigating the drugs-crime channel in economics of crime models: Empirical evidence from panel data of the German States," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 8-22, March.
  3. Pope, Jaren C., 2008. "Fear of crime and housing prices: Household reactions to sex offender registries," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(3), pages 601-614, November.
  4. Horst Entorf & Peter Winker, 2001. "The Economics of Crime: Investigating the Drugs-Crime Channel," Law and Economics 0108001, EconWPA.
  5. Ian Irvine & Kuan Xu, 2002. "Crime, Punishment and Poverty in the United States," Department of Economics at Dalhousie University working papers archive uspov, Dalhousie, Department of Economics.
  6. Dhaval Dave, 2004. "Illicit Drug Use Among Arrestees and Drug Prices," NBER Working Papers 10648, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Michael Grossman, 2004. "Individual Behaviors and Substance Use: The Role of Price," NBER Working Papers 10948, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Dhaval Dave, 2004. "The Effects of Cocaine and Heroin Prices on Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits," NBER Working Papers 10619, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Hope Corman & Kelly Noonan & Nancy E. Reichman & Dhaval Dave, 2004. "Demand for Illicit Drugs by Pregnant Women," NBER Working Papers 10688, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Dave, Dhaval, 2008. "Illicit drug use among arrestees, prices and policy," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 694-714, March.
  11. DeAngelo, Gregory, 2012. "Making space for crime: A spatial analysis of criminal competition," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 42-51.
  12. Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 163-190, Winter.
  13. Gathmann, Christina, 2008. "Effects of enforcement on illegal markets: Evidence from migrant smuggling along the southwestern border," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 1926-1941, October.
  14. Gathmann, Christina, 2004. "The Effects of Enforcement on Illegal Markets: Evidence from Migrant Smuggling along the Southwestern Border," IZA Discussion Papers 1004, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. Carlos Casacuberta & Mariana Gerstenblüth & Patricia Triunfo, 2012. "Aportes del análisis económico al estudio de las drogas," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 0112, Department of Economics - dECON.

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