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Rational Suicides: Evidence from Changes in Inmates' Expected Sentence Length

Author

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  • Nadia Campaniello
  • Theodoros Diasakos
  • Giovanni Mastrobuoni

Abstract

Are suicides rational? At least since the 70's economists have been trying to shed light on this question by studying whether suicide rates are related to contemporaneous economic conditions. This paper goes one step further: we test whether suicides are linked to forward-looking behavior. In Italy, collective sentence reductions (pardons) often lead to massive releases of prisoners. More importantly, they are usually preceded by prolonged parliamentary activity (legislative proposals, discussion, voting, etc.) that inmates seem to follow closely. We use the legislative proposals for collective pardons to measure changes in the inmates' expectations about their date of release, and find that suicide rates tend to be significantly lower when pardons are proposed in congress. This suggests that, amongst inmates in Italian prisons, the average decision to commit suicide has a rational component.

Suggested Citation

  • Nadia Campaniello & Theodoros Diasakos & Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2012. "Rational Suicides: Evidence from Changes in Inmates' Expected Sentence Length," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 247, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  • Handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:247
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    File URL: http://www.carloalberto.org/assets/working-papers/no.247.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ludwig, Jens & Marcotte, Dave E. & Norberg, Karen, 2009. "Anti-depressants and suicide," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 659-676, May.
    2. Brainerd, Elizabeth, 2001. "Economic reform and mortality in the former Soviet Union: A study of the suicide epidemic in the 1990s," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(4-6), pages 1007-1019, May.
    3. Avinash K. Dixit & Robert S. Pindyck, 1994. "Investment under Uncertainty," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 5474.
    4. Joe Chen & Yun Jeong Choi & Kohta Mori & Yasuyuki Sawada & Saki Sugano, 2012. "Socio‚ÄźEconomic Studies On Suicide: A Survey," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(2), pages 271-306, April.
    5. Jahyeong Koo & W. Michael Cox, 2008. "An Economic Interpretation Of Suicide Cycles In Japan," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(1), pages 162-174, January.
    6. Dave E. Marcotte, 2003. "The Economics of Suicide, Revisited," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 628-643, January.
    7. Antonio Rodriguez Andres, 2005. "Income inequality, unemployment, and suicide: a panel data analysis of 15 European countries," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(4), pages 439-451.
    8. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Karen E. Norberg, 2001. "Explaining the Rise in Youth Suicide," NBER Chapters,in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 219-270 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Soss, Neal M, 1974. "An Economic Theory of Suicide," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 83-98, Jan.-Feb..
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Is pardoning prisoners the best way to keep jail costs low?
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2012-04-20 19:31:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Pecchenino, Rowena A., 2015. "Have we cause for despair?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 56-62.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Suicides; Rationality; Pardons; Amnesty; Prison Conditions;

    JEL classification:

    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government

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