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New Claims about Executions and General Deterrence: Déjà Vu All Over Again?

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  • Richard Berk

Abstract

A number of papers have recently appeared claiming to show that in the United States executions deter serious crime. There are many statistical problems with the data analyses reported. This article addresses the problem of “influence,” which occurs when a very small and atypical fraction of the data dominate the statistical results. The number of executions by state and year is the key explanatory variable, and most states in most years execute no one. A very few states in particular years execute more than five individuals. Such values represent about 1 percent of the available observations. Reanalyses of the existing data are presented showing that claims of deterrence are a statistical artifact of this anomalous 1 percent.

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  • Richard Berk, 2005. "New Claims about Executions and General Deterrence: Déjà Vu All Over Again?," Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 2(2), pages 303-330, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:empleg:v:2:y:2005:i:2:p:303-330
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-1461.2005.00052.x
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    Cited by:

    1. Clougherty, Joseph A. & Duso, Tomaso & Lee, Miyu & Seldeslachts, Jo, 2016. "Effective European Antitrust : Does EC Merger Policy Generate Deterrence?," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 54(4), pages 1884-1903.
    2. Brett Parker, 2021. "Death Penalty Statutes and Murder Rates: Evidence From Synthetic Controls," Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 18(3), pages 488-533, September.
    3. Donohue III, John J. & Wolfers, Justin, 2006. "Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate," IZA Discussion Papers 1949, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Steven N. Durlauf & Chao Fu & Salvador Navarro, 2011. "Capital Punishment and Deterrence: Understanding Disparate Results," Working Papers 2012-005, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    5. Ethan Cohen-Cole & Steven Durlauf & Jeffrey Fagan & Daniel Nagin, 2008. "Model Uncertainty and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment," American Law and Economics Review, American Law and Economics Association, vol. 11(2), pages 335-369.
    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. Joseph A. Clougherty & Jo Seldeslachts, 2013. "The Deterrence Effects of US Merger Policy Instruments," The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(5), pages 1114-1144, October.
    8. Jo Seldeslachts & Joseph A. Clougherty & Pedro Pita Barros, 2009. "Settle for Now but Block for Tomorrow: The Deterrence Effects of Merger Policy Tools," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(3), pages 607-634, August.
    9. Patrick T Brandt & Tomislav V Kovandzic, 2015. "Messing Up Texas?: A Re-Analysis of the Effects of Executions on Homicides," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 10(9), pages 1-19, September.
    10. Paul R. Zimmerman, 2010. "The Economics of Capital Punishment and Deterrence," Chapters, in: Bruce L. Benson & Paul R. Zimmerman (ed.), Handbook on the Economics of Crime, chapter 16, Edward Elgar Publishing.

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