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Crime and Expected Punishment: Changes in Perceptions at the Age of Criminal Majority


  • Randi Hjalmarsson


This paper assesses whether perceived punishment severity changes discontinuously when an individual becomes an adult in the eyes of the courts. I find that the perceived chance of jail increases by 5.2 percentage points at the age of criminal majority, which is over and above the general effect of aging. The magnitude of this subjective change in the chance of jail at the age of majority appears to be substantially smaller than that found in objective data. Finally, a reduced-form analysis of whether self-reported criminal behavior changes discontinuously at the age of criminal majority finds little consistent evidence of deterrence. Copyright 2008, Oxford University Press.

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  • Randi Hjalmarsson, 2008. "Crime and Expected Punishment: Changes in Perceptions at the Age of Criminal Majority," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 209-248.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:11:y:2008:i:1:p:209-248

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Yunker, James A., 1976. "Is the death penalty a deterrent to homicide? Some time series evidence," Journal of Behavioral Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 45-81.
    2. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Chressanthis, George A., 1989. "Capital punishment and the deterrent effect revisited: Recent time-series econometric evidence," Journal of Behavioral Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 81-97.
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    5. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1977. "Capital Punishment and Deterrence: Some Further Thoughts and Additional Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(4), pages 741-788, August.
    6. McAleer, Michael & Veall, Michael R, 1989. "How Fragile Are Fragile Inferences? A Re-evaluation of the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(1), pages 99-106, February.
    7. Ehrlich, Isaac & Liu, Zhiqiang, 1999. "Sensitivity Analyses of the Deterrence Hypothesis: Let's Keep the Econ in Econometrics," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 455-487, April.
    8. Sah, Raaj K, 1991. "Social Osmosis and Patterns of Crime," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(6), pages 1272-1295, December.
    9. Passell, Peter & Taylor, John B, 1977. "The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Another View," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 445-451, June.
    10. Isaac Ehrlich, 1996. "Crime, Punishment, and the Market for Offenses," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 43-67, Winter.
    11. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 1999. "Why Is There More Crime in Cities?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 225-258, December.
    12. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1975. "The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: A Question of Life and Death," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(3), pages 397-417, June.
    13. Andreoni, James, 1995. "Criminal Deterrence in the Reduced Form: A New Perspective on Ehrlich's Seminal Study," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(3), pages 476-483, July.
    14. Brumm, Harold J. & Cloninger, Dale O., 1996. "Perceived risk of punishment and the commission of homicides: A covariance structure analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 1-11, October.
    15. Dezhbakhsh, Hashem & Rubin, Paul H, 1998. "Lives Saved or Lives Lost? The Effects of Concealed-Handgun Laws on Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 468-474, May.
    16. H. Naci Mocan & R. Kaj Gittings, 2001. "Pardons, Executions and Homicide," NBER Working Papers 8639, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Lott, John R, Jr & Mustard, David B, 1997. "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(1), pages 1-68, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Steven N. Durlauf & Daniel S. Nagin, 2010. "The Deterrent Effect of Imprisonment," NBER Chapters,in: Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs, pages 43-94 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. David S. Abrams, 2012. "Estimating the Deterrent Effect of Incarceration Using Sentencing Enhancements," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 32-56, October.
    3. George Saridakis & Sandra Sookram, 2014. "Violent Crime and Perceived Deterrence: An Empirical Approach using the Offending Crime and Justice Survey," Economic Issues Journal Articles, Economic Issues, vol. 19(1), pages 23-56, March.

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