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Marginal Deterrence at Work

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  • Crin�, Rosario
  • Immordino, Giovanni
  • Piccolo, Salvatore

Abstract

We test the rational economic model of marginal deterrence of law enforcement --- i.e., the need for graduating the penalty to the severity of the crime. We use a unique data set, which combines individual-level data on sentence length for a representative sample of US inmates with proxies for maximum punishment and monitoring costs across US states over 50 years. We show that the penalty is increasing in the level of the offense. Consistent with the marginal deterrence framework, we also document that a decrease in maximum penalty or an increase in monitoring cost are associated with longer sentences and higher monitoring rates. We also provide evidence that the effects of maximum penalty and monitoring cost are stronger in states where income inequality is higher. Finally, we show that steeper sanctions are associated with less harmful crimes. Overall, these findings favor the marginal deterrence framework over the maximal penalty principle and other competing theories of justice.

Suggested Citation

  • Crin�, Rosario & Immordino, Giovanni & Piccolo, Salvatore, 2017. "Marginal Deterrence at Work," CEPR Discussion Papers 12023, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:12023
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    Cited by:

    1. Rosario Crino & Giovanni Immordino & Gülen Karakoç-Palminteri & Salvatore Piccolo, 2018. "Fighting Mobile Crime," CSEF Working Papers 504, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    death penalty; Enforcement Policies; Individual-Level Data; Marginal Deterrence;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General

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