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Sex Offender Registries: Fear without Function?

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  • Amanda Y. Agan

Abstract

I use three separate data sets and designs to determine whether sex offender registries are effective. First, I use state-level panel data to determine whether sex offender registries and public access to them decrease the rate of rape and other sexual abuse. Second, I use a data set that contains information on the subsequent arrests of sex offenders released from prison in 1994 in 15 states to determine whether registries reduce the recidivism rate of offenders required to register compared with the recidivism of those who are not. Finally, I combine data on locations of crimes in Washington, D.C., with data on locations of registered sex offenders to determine whether knowing the locations of sex offenders in a region helps predict the locations of sexual abuse. The results from all three data sets do not support the hypothesis that sex offender registries are effective tools for increasing public safety.

Suggested Citation

  • Amanda Y. Agan, 2011. "Sex Offender Registries: Fear without Function?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(1), pages 207-239.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/658483
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Tabarrok, Alexander & Helland, Eric, 1999. "Court Politics: The Political Economy of Tort Awards," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 157-188, April.
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    3. Klick, Jonathan & Tabarrok, Alexander, 2005. "Using Terror Alert Levels to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(1), pages 267-279, April.
    4. Levitt, Steven D, 1998. "Why Do Increased Arrest Rates Appear to Reduce Crime: Deterrence, Incapacitation, or Measurement Error?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(3), pages 353-372, July.
    5. Kuziemko, Ilyana & Levitt, Steven D., 2004. "An empirical analysis of imprisoning drug offenders," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2043-2066, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alexander Tabarrok & Paul Heaton & Eric Helland, 2010. "The Measure of Vice and Sin: A Review of the Uses, Limitations and Implications of Crime Data," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Crime, chapter 3 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. J.J. Prescott & Jonah E. Rockoff, 2011. "Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(1), pages 161-206.
    3. Simundza, Daniel, 2014. "Criminal registries, community notification, and optimal avoidance," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 73-82.
    4. Kang, Songman, 2017. "The consequences of sex offender residency restriction: Evidence from North Carolina," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 10-22.
    5. Jennifer L. Doleac, 2017. "The Effects of DNA Databases on Crime," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 165-201, January.
    6. Yeh, Susan, 2015. "Revealing the rapist next door: Property impacts of a sex offender registry," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 42-60.
    7. J.J. Prescott & Jonah E. Rockoff, 2008. "Do Sex Offender Registration and Notification Laws Affect Criminal Behavior?," NBER Working Papers 13803, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Taggert J. Brooks & Brad R. Humphreys & Adam Nowak, 2016. "Strip Clubs, “Secondary Effects,†and Residential Property Prices," Working Papers 16-17, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.

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