The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Evidence from a "Judicial Experiment"
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.
Volume (Year): 44 (2006)
Issue (Month): 3 (July)
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