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Individual Perceptions of the Criminal Justice System

  • Lance Lochner

This paper empirically examines belief updating of the perceived probability of arrest and its criminal deterrence effects using two longitudinal data sources. While beliefs about the probability of arrest are positively correlated with local official arrest rates, they are unresponsive to information acquired from random individuals and local neighborhood conditions. Importantly, perceptions respond to changes in an individual's criminal and arrest history. Young males who engage in crime without getting arrested revise their perceived probability of arrest downward, while those who are arrested revise their probability upward. Estimates suggest that beliefs about the probability of arrest significantly deter crime. (JEL K42)

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.97.1.444
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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/aer/data/mar07/20050140_data.zip
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 97 (2007)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 444-460

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:97:y:2007:i:1:p:444-460
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.97.1.444
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  1. Corman, Hope & Joyce, Theodore & Lovitch, Norman, 1987. "Crime, Deterrence and the Business Cycle in New York City: A VAR Approach," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(4), pages 695-700, November.
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  16. Steven D. Levitt, 1995. "Why Do Increased Arrest Rates Appear to Reduce Crime: Deterrence, Incapacitation, or Measurement Error?," NBER Working Papers 5268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. D. Lee Heavner & Lance Lochner, 2002. "Social Networks and the Aggregation on Individual Decisions," NBER Working Papers 8979, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Waldfogel, Joel, 1993. "Criminal Sentences as Endogenous Taxes: Are They "Just" or "Efficient"?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 139-51, April.
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