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Efficient Institutions and Effective Deterrence: On Timing and Uncertainty of Formal Sanctions

Author

Listed:
  • Johannes Buckenmaier

    (University of Zurich)

  • Eugen Dimant

    (University of Pennsylvania & CESifo)

  • Ann-Christin Posten

    (University of Cologne)

  • Ulrich Schmidt

    (Kiel Institute for the World Economy)

Abstract

Economic theory suggests that the deterrence of deviant behavior is driven by a combination of severity and certainty of punishment. This paper presents the first controlled experiment to study a third important factor that has been mainly overlooked: the swiftness of formal sanctions. We consider two dimensions: the timing at which the uncertainty about whether one will be punished is dissolved and the timing at which the punishment is actually imposed, as well as the combination thereof. By varying these dimensions of delay systematically, we find a surprising non-monotonic relation with deterrence: either no delay (immediate resolution and immediate punishment) or maximum delay (both resolution and punishment as much as possible delayed) emerge as most effective at deterring deviant behavior and recidivism. Our results yield implications for the design of institutional policies aimed at mitigating misconduct and reducing recidivism.

Suggested Citation

  • Johannes Buckenmaier & Eugen Dimant & Ann-Christin Posten & Ulrich Schmidt, 2021. "Efficient Institutions and Effective Deterrence: On Timing and Uncertainty of Formal Sanctions," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 065, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:ajk:ajkdps:065
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Deterrence; Institutions; Punishment; Swiftness; Uncertainty;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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