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Eine panelökonometrische Überprüfung der ökonomischen Theorie der Kriminalität mit deutschen Bundesländerdaten


  • Hannes Spengler


According to the economic theory of crime, a rise in expected punishment (the product of probability and severity of punishment) results in a reduction of crime due to deterrence. What appears to be a simple and straightforward hypotheses turns out to be a demanding task for empirical examination because "crime" is composed of many different offence categories and expected punishment is influenced by the actions and decisions of different institutions such as police, public prosecutor's office and the courts and, thus, varies with respect to clearance and conviction rate as well as decisions regarding type (fine, probation, imprisonment) and "quantity" (length of prison sentence and size of fine) of punishment. Moreover, it makes a difference whether offenders are subject to general or juvenile criminal law. Usually, empirical analyses of crime/deterrence take simultaneous account of only a fraction of the items detailed above. In orderto overcome this shortcoming the author has established a unique database combining information from different sources of official judicial statistics covering the German states for the period 1977-2001. Building on this database a comprehensive system of criminal prosecution indicators is derived and subsequently related to the incidence of six major offence categories using panel-econometrics. Revealing many negative significant effects for clearance and conviction rates but mostly insignificant coefficients for indicators of type and "quantity" of punishment the estimation results suggest that deterrence is mainly exerted at the initial levels of the criminal prosecution process. Finally, the econometric estimates are used in order to assess cost reductions for crime victims from increases in the severity of criminal prosecution. Thus, intensifying criminal prosecution permanently by 10 percent would reduce victims' costs by at least € 250 million p.a.

Suggested Citation

  • Hannes Spengler, 2006. "Eine panelökonometrische Überprüfung der ökonomischen Theorie der Kriminalität mit deutschen Bundesländerdaten," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 548, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp548

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jeffrey M Wooldridge, 2010. "Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262232588, July.
    2. Ann Dryden Witte, 1980. "Estimating the Economic Model of Crime With Individual Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 94(1), pages 57-84.
    3. Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1980. "A Time Series-Cross Section Analysis of International Variation in Crime and Punishment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 62(3), pages 417-423, August.
    4. Viscusi, W Kip, 1986. "The Risks and Rewards of Criminal Activity: A Comprehensive Test of Criminal Deterrence," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages 317-340, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Entorf, Horst, 2011. "Crime, Prosecutors, and the Certainty of Conviction," IZA Discussion Papers 5670, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Kroneberg, Clemens & Heintze, Isolde & Mehlkop, Guido, 2008. "On shoplifting and tax fraud : an action-theoretic analysis of crime," Papers 08-16, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
    3. Entorf, Horst, 2008. "Wirkung und Effizienz von Strafrecht: "Was geht?" - bei jungen Gewalttätern?," ZEW Discussion Papers 08-056, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    4. Spengler Hannes, 2006. "Eine panelökonometrische Evaluation des deutschen Strafverfolgungssystems / A Panel-econometric Evaluation of the German Criminal Prosecution System," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 226(6), pages 687-714, December.

    More about this item


    Empirical crime research; Economic theory of crime; Criminal prosecution; Deterrence; Applied econometrics; Panel data; Integration; IV-estimation; Nickel bias; Ratio bias; Cost-benefit-analysis;

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • H73 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Interjurisdictional Differentials and Their Effects

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