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Model Uncertainty and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment

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  • Ethan Cohen-Cole
  • Steven Durlauf
  • Jeffrey Fagan
  • Daniel Nagin

Abstract

The reintroduction of capital punishment in 1976 that ended the four-year moratorium on executions generated by the Supreme Court in the 1972 decision Furman v. Georgia has permitted researchers to employ state-level heterogeneity in the use of capital punishment to study deterrent effects. However, no scholarly consensus exists as to their magnitude. A key reason that this has occurred is that the use of alternative models across studies produces differing estimates of the deterrent effect. Because differences across models are not well motivated by theory, the deterrence literature is plagued by model uncertainty. We argue that the analysis of deterrent effects should explicitly recognize the presence of model uncertainty in drawing inferences. We describe methods for addressing model uncertainty and apply them to understand the disparate findings between two major studies in the deterrence literature, finding that evidence of deterrent effects appears, while not nonexistent, weak. Copyright 2008, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Ethan Cohen-Cole & Steven Durlauf & Jeffrey Fagan & Daniel Nagin, 2008. "Model Uncertainty and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(2), pages 335-369.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:11:y:2008:i:2:p:335-369
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    Cited by:

    1. Koop, Gary & Leon-Gonzalez, Roberto & Strachan, Rodney, 2012. "Bayesian model averaging in the instrumental variable regression model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 171(2), pages 237-250.
    2. Ampaabeng, Samuel K. & Tan, Chih Ming, 2013. "The long-term cognitive consequences of early childhood malnutrition: The case of famine in Ghana," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 1013-1027.
    3. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2011. "Econometric Estimates of Deterrence of the Death Penalty: Facts or Ideology?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(3), pages 448-478, August.
    4. Samuel K. Ampaabeng & Chih Ming Tang, 2012. "The Long-Term Cognitive Consequences of Early Childhood Malnutrition: The Case of Famine in Ghana," Working Paper series 64_12, Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.
    5. Theo S. Eicher & Alex Lenkoski & Adrian Raftery, 2009. "Bayesian Model Averaging and Endogeneity Under Model Uncertainty: An Application to Development Determinants," Working Papers UWEC-2009-19-FC, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
    6. Steven N. Durlauf & Chao Fu & Salvador Navarro, 2011. "Capital Punishment and Deterrence: Understanding Disparate Results," Working Papers 2012-005, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    7. Berit C. Gerritzen & Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2013. "Facts or Ideology: What Determines the Results of Econometric Estimates of the Deterrence Effect of Death Penalty? A Meta-Analysis," CESifo Working Paper Series 4159, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. León-González, Roberto & Montolio, Daniel, 2015. "Endogeneity and panel data in growth regressions: A Bayesian model averaging approach," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 23-39.
    9. Moral-Benito, Enrique, 2010. "Model averaging in economics," MPRA Paper 26047, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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