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Reexamining Criminal Behavior: The Importance of Omitted Variable Bias

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  • David B. Mustard

    (Terry College of Business, University of Georgia)

Abstract

Recently many papers have used the arrest rate to measure punishments in crime-rate regressions. However, arrest rates account for only a portion of the criminal sanction. Conviction rates and time served are theoretically important, but rarely used, and excluding them generates omitted variable bias if they are correlated with the arrest rate. This paper uses the most complete set of conviction and sentencing data to show that arrest rates are negatively correlated with these normally excluded variables. Consequently, previous estimates of arrest-rate effects are understated by as much as 50%. Also, conviction rates, but not sentence lengths, have significant explanatory power in standard crime-rate regressions. © 2003 President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • David B. Mustard, 2003. "Reexamining Criminal Behavior: The Importance of Omitted Variable Bias," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(1), pages 205-211, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:85:y:2003:i:1:p:205-211
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    Cited by:

    1. Loureiro, Paulo R.A. & Mendonça, Mário Jorge Cardoso de & Moreira, Tito Belchior Silva & Sachsida, Adolfo, 2009. "Crime, economic conditions, social interactions and family heritage," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 202-209, September.
    2. Entorf, Horst, 2011. "Crime, Prosecutors, and the Certainty of Conviction," IZA Discussion Papers 5670, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Naci Mocan & Kaj Gittings, 2010. "The Impact of Incentives on Human Behavior: Can We Make it Disappear? The Case of the Death Penalty," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America, pages 379-418 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. William Harbaugh & Naci Mocan & Michael Visser, 2013. "Theft and Deterrence," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 34(4), pages 389-407, December.
    5. Lau, Evan & Hamzah, Siti Nur Zahara, 2012. "Crimonometric Analysis: Testing the Deterrence Hypothesis in Sabah," MPRA Paper 39297, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. 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.
    7. Earl L. Grinols & David B. Mustard, 2006. "Casinos, Crime, and Community Costs," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(1), pages 28-45, February.
    8. Kelaher, Richard & Sarafidis, Vasilis, 2011. "Crime and Punishment Revisited," MPRA Paper 28213, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Lin, Ming-Jen, 2009. "More police, less crime: Evidence from US state data," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 73-80, June.
    10. Nicolas Vaillant & François-Charles Wolff, 2010. "Does punishment of minor sexual offences deter rapes? Longitudinal evidence from France," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 59-71, August.
    11. Corman, Hope & Mocan, Naci, 2005. "Carrots, Sticks, and Broken Windows," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(1), pages 235-266, April.
    12. John R. Lott, 2013. "Principles and standards for the benefit–cost analysis of crime," Chapters,in: Principles and Standards for Benefit–Cost Analysis, chapter 4, pages 153-171 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    13. Maurice J.G. Bun & Vasilis Sarafidis & Richard Kelaher, 2016. "Crime, Deterrence and Punishment Revisited," UvA-Econometrics Working Papers 16-02, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Dept. of Econometrics.
    14. Kwabena Gyimah-Brempong, 2006. "Neighborhood income, alcohol availability, and crime rates," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, pages 21-44.
    15. Zimmerman, Paul R., 2010. "Deterrence from self-protection measures in the ‘market model’ of crime: dynamic panel data estimates from employment in private security occupations," MPRA Paper 26187, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Peter Jacobebbinghaus & Jens Mohrenweiser & Thomas Zwick, 2009. "Wie kann die durchschnittliche Ausbildungsquote in Deutschland korrekt gemessen werden?," AStA Wirtschafts- und Sozialstatistisches Archiv, Springer;Deutsche Statistische Gesellschaft - German Statistical Society, vol. 3(4), pages 225-240, December.
    17. Horst Entorf & Hannes Spengler, 2008. "Is Being 'Soft on Crime' the Solution to Rising Crime Rates?: Evidence from Germany," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 837, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    18. Helen Tauchen, 2010. "Estimating the Supply of Crime: Recent Advances," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Crime, chapter 2 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    19. Jonathan E Leightner & Tomoo Inoue, 2014. "Political Instability and the Effectiveness of Economic Policies: The Case of Thailand from 1993-2013," Economy, Asian Online Journal Publishing Group, pages 20-31.
    20. Entorf, Horst, 2012. "Certainty and Severity of Sanctions in Classical and Behavioral Models of Deterrence: A Survey," IZA Discussion Papers 6516, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    21. Jonathan E. Leightner, 2013. "The Changing Effectiveness of Monetary Policy," Economies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 1(3), pages 1-16, November.

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