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The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Evidence from a "Judicial Experiment"

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  • Hashem Dezhbakhsh
  • Joanna M. Shepherd

Abstract

We use panel data for 50 states during the 1960--2000 period to examine the deterrent effect of capital punishment, using the moratorium as a "judicial experiment." We compare murder rates immediately before and after changes in states' death penalty laws, drawing on cross-state variations in the timing and duration of the moratorium. The regression analysis supplementing the before-and-after comparisons disentangles the effect of lifting the moratorium on murder from the effect of actual executions on murder. Results suggest that capital punishment has a deterrent effect, and that executions have a distinct effect which compounds the deterrent effect of merely (re)instating the death penalty. The finding is robust across 96 regression models. (JEL C1, K1) Copyright 2006, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Hashem Dezhbakhsh & Joanna M. Shepherd, 2006. "The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Evidence from a "Judicial Experiment"," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(3), pages 512-535, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:ecinqu:v:44:y:2006:i:3:p:512-535
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    Cited by:

    1. Joseph A. Clougherty & Tomaso Duso & Miyu Lee & Jo Seldeslachts, 2016. "Effective European Antitrust: Does Ec Merger Policy Generate Deterrence?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(4), pages 1884-1903, October.
    2. repec:ksa:szemle:1758 is not listed on IDEAS
    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. Donohue III, John J. & Wolfers, Justin, 2006. "Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate," IZA Discussion Papers 1949, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Berit C. Gerritzen & Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2013. "Facts or Ideology: What Determines the Results of Econometric Estimates of the Deterrence Effect of Death Penalty?," CREMA Working Paper Series 2013-04, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    8. Amanda Ross & Anne Walker, 2014. "Low Priority Laws and the Allocation of Police Resources," Working Papers 14-06, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
    9. Hashem Dezhbakhsh & Paul Rubin, 2011. "From the 'econometrics of capital punishment' to the 'capital punishment' of econometrics: on the use and abuse of sensitivity analysis," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(25), pages 3655-3670.
    10. Angela K. Dills & Jeffrey A. Miron & Garrett Summers, 2010. "What Do Economists Know about Crime?," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 269-302 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Eide, Erling & Rubin, Paul H. & Shepherd, Joanna M., 2006. "Economics of Crime," Foundations and Trends(R) in Microeconomics, now publishers, vol. 2(3), pages 205-279, December.
    12. Paul R. Zimmerman, 2010. "The Economics of Capital Punishment and Deterrence," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Crime, chapter 16 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    13. Enrique Moral-Benito, 2015. "Model Averaging In Economics: An Overview," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(1), pages 46-75, February.
    14. Yang, Bijou & Lester, David, 2008. "The deterrent effect of executions: A meta-analysis thirty years after Ehrlich," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 453-460, September.
    15. repec:bla:coecpo:v:35:y:2017:i:2:p:239-252 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Ross, Amanda, 2012. "Crime, police, and truth-in-sentencing: The impact of state sentencing policy on local communities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 144-152.
    17. Michael Frakes & Matthew Harding, 2009. "The Deterrent Effect of Expansions in Death Penalty Eligibility Criteria," Discussion Papers 08-033, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    18. Charles F. Manski & John V. Pepper, 2011. "Deterrence and the Death Penalty: Partial Identification Analysis Using Repeated Cross Sections," NBER Working Papers 17455, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    JEL classification:

    • C1 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General
    • K1 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law

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