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Does Three Strikes Deter?: A Nonparametric Estimation

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  • Eric Helland
  • Alexander Tabarrok

Abstract

We take advantage of the fortuitous randomization of trial outcome to provide a novel strategy to identify the deterrent effect exclusive of incapacitation. We compare the post-sentencing criminal activity of criminals who were convicted of a strikeable offense with those who were tried for a strikeable offense but convicted of a nonstrikeable offense. As a robustness check, we also make this comparison in states without three-strikes laws. The identification strategy lets us estimate the deterrent effect nonparametrically using data solely from the three-strikes era. We find that California’s three-strike legislation significantly reduces felony arrest rates among the class of criminals with two strikes by 17–20 percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric Helland & Alexander Tabarrok, 2007. "Does Three Strikes Deter?: A Nonparametric Estimation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(2).
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:42:y:2007:i2:p309-330
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    1. Marvell, Thomas B & Moody, Carlisle E, 2001. "The Lethal Effects of Three-Strikes Laws," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(1), pages 89-106, January.
    2. Helland, Eric & Tabarrok, Alexander, 2004. "The Fugitive: Evidence on Public versus Private Law Enforcement from Bail Jumping," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(1), pages 93-122, April.
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