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The Economics of Stigma: Why More Detection of Crime May Result in Less Stigmatization

  • Alon Harel
  • Alon Klement

This paper establishes that there may be an inverse relation between the rate of detection and the deterrent effects of stigma. The more people are detected and stigmatized, the less deterrence there may be. This conclusion is based on a search model in which the costs of searching for law-abiding partners increase with the rate of detection. The model distinguishes between willing stigmatizers, who refrain from business or social contacts with someone they believe has committed an offense (whether he is detected or not), and unwilling stigmatizers, whose main concern is not to be associated with the stigmatized yet are indifferent to whether that person has actually committed an offense. The inverse relation between the rate of detection and the deterrent effect of stigma is possible when the percentage of unwilling stigmatizers in the population is sufficiently high.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/511893
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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Legal Studies.

Volume (Year): 36 (2007)
Issue (Month): 2 (06)
Pages: 355-377

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:36:y:2007:p:355-377
DOI: 10.1086/511893
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLS/

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  1. Eric Rasmusen, 1995. "``Stigma and Self-Fulfilling Expectations of Criminality''," Law and Economics 9506001, EconWPA.
  2. Sen, Sankar & Gurhan-Canli, Zeynep & Morwitz, Vicki, 2001. " Withholding Consumption: A Social Dilemma Perspective on Consumer Boycotts," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(3), pages 399-417, December.
  3. Alon Harel & Alon Klement, 2005. "The Economics of Shame: Why More Shaming may Deter Less," Discussion Paper Series dp401, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  4. Bar-Gill, O. & Harel, A., 2000. "Crime Rates and Expected Sanctions: The Economics of Deterrence Revisited," Papers 00-14, Tel Aviv.
  5. Diamond, Peter A., 1971. "A model of price adjustment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 156-168, June.
  6. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  7. George Akerlof, 1976. "The Economics of Caste and of the Rat Race and Other Woeful Tales," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(4), pages 599-617.
  8. Kahan, Dan M & Posner, Eric A, 1999. "Shaming White-Collar Criminals: A Proposal for Reform of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 365-91, April.
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