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Empirical Study of Criminal Punishment

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  • Levitt, Steven D.
  • Miles, Thomas J.

Abstract

This chapter reviews empirical studies of criminal punishment and the criminal justice system by economists. Since the modern exposition of the economic model of criminal behavior, empirical economists have tested its predictions using variation in expected criminal punishments. In the past decade, empirical economists have made substantial progress in identifying the effects of punishment on crime by finding new ways to break the simultaneity of crime rates and punishments. The new empirical evidence generally supports the deterrence model but shows that incapacitation influences crime rates, too. Evidence of the crime-reducing effect of the scale of policing and incarceration is consistent across different methodological approaches. Estimates of the deterrent effect of other penalties, such as capital punishment, are less robust and suggest that claims of large effects from these policies may be spurious. More work is needed to assess the relative importance of deterrence and incapacitation. Empirical economists have made less progress in studying the criminal justice system itself. Data availability constrains the economists' ability to resolve the simultaneity of criminal justice institutions and crime rates, and this limitation hampers rigorous empirical investigation of the incentive effects of numerous criminal justice institutions and procedures. This area remains an important avenue for future empirical research.

Suggested Citation

  • Levitt, Steven D. & Miles, Thomas J., 2007. "Empirical Study of Criminal Punishment," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:lawchp:1-07
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Mari Rege & Torbjørn Skardhamar & Kjetil Telle & Mark Votruba, 2009. "The effect of plant closure on crime," Discussion Papers 593, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    2. Gavrilova, Evelina, 2013. "A Partner in Crime: Assortative Matching and Bias in the Crime Market," MPRA Paper 50432, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Tim Friehe, 2008. "Correlated payoffs in the inspection game: some theory and an application to corruption," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 137(1), pages 127-143, October.
    4. Mongrain, Steeve & Roberts, Joanne, 2009. "Plea bargaining with budgetary constraints," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 8-12, March.
    5. Francesco Drago & Roberto Galbiati & Pietro Vertova, 2011. "Prison Conditions and Recidivism," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(1), pages 103-130.
    6. repec:kap:ejlwec:v:45:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10657-016-9526-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Volokh, Alexander, 2010. "Privatization, free riding, and industry-expanding lobbying," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 62-70, March.
    8. Thomas J. Miceli, 2009. "Deterrence and Incapacitation Models of Criminal Punishment: Can the Twain Meet?," Working papers 2009-25, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    9. Philip J. Cook, 2008. "Assessing Urban Crime And Its Control: An Overview," NBER Working Papers 13781, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Simona Benedettini & Antonio Nicita, 2009. "Deterrence, Incapacitation and Enforcement Design. Evidence from Traffic Enforcement in Italy," Department of Economics University of Siena 564, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    11. Francesco Drago & Roberto Galbiati & Pietro Vertova, 2009. "The Deterrent Effects of Prison: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(2), pages 257-280, April.
    12. 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.
    13. Markus Gehrsitz, 2016. "Speeding, Punishment, and Recidivism - Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," Working Papers 11, City University of New York Graduate Center, Ph.D. Program in Economics.
    14. Campaniello, N & Gavrilova, E, 2017. "Uncovering the Gender Participation Gap in Crime," Economics Discussion Papers 18833, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    15. Shavell, Steven, 2015. "A simple model of optimal deterrence and incapacitation," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 13-19.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Law and Education;

    JEL classification:

    • K - Law and Economics

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