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Assumptions Matter: Model Uncertainty and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment


  • Steven N. Durlauf
  • Chao Fu
  • Salvador Navarro


This paper examines how estimates of the deterrent effect of capital punishment depend on alternate choices of assumptions concerning the homicide process. Specific models of the homicide process represent bundles of these assumptions, which involve the unobserved heterogeneity, the relevant penalty probabilities for homicide choices, possible cross-polity parameter variation, and exchangeability between polity-time pairs that do and do not experience positive numbers of murders. We demonstrate how various assumptions have driven the conflicting findings from studies on capital punishment, and isolate a particular set of assumptions that are required to find a positive deterrent effect.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven N. Durlauf & Chao Fu & Salvador Navarro, 2012. "Assumptions Matter: Model Uncertainty and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 487-492, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:3:p:487-92

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    Cited by:

    1. Rockey, James & Temple, Jonathan, 2016. "Growth econometrics for agnostics and true believers," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 86-102.

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