The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Evidence from a "Judicial Experiment"
Does capital punishment deter capital crimes? We use panel data covering the fifty states duringthe period 1960-2000 period to examine the issue. Our study is novel in four ways. First, we estimate the moratorium's full effect by using both pre- and postmoratorium evidence. Second, we exploit the moratorium as a judicial experiment to measure criminals' responsiveness to the severity of punishment; we compare murder rates immediately before and after changes in states' death penalty laws. The inference draws on the variations in the timing and duration of the moratorium across states provide a cross section of murder rate changes occurring in various time periods. Third, we supplement the before-and-after comparisons with regression analysis that disentangles the impact of the moratorium itself on murder from the effect on murder of actual executions. By using two different approaches, we avoid many of the modeling criticisms of earlier studies. Fourth, in addition to estimating 84 distinct regression models - with variations in regressors, estimation method, and functional form - our robustness checks examine the moratorium's impact on crimes that are not punishable by death. Our results indicate that capital punishment has a deterrent effect, and the moratorium and executions deter murders in distinct ways. This evidence is corroborated by both the before-and-after comparisons and regression analysis. We also confirm that the moratorium and executions do not cause similar changes in non-capital crimes. The results are highly robust.
|Date of creation:||Aug 2003|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Web page: http://economics.emory.edu/home/journals/|
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Ehrlich, Isaac, 1975.
"The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: A Question of Life and Death,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 65(3), pages 397-417, June.
- Isaac Ehrlich, 1973. "The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: A Question of Life and Death," NBER Working Papers 0018, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Dale Cloninger & Roberto Marchesini, 2001. "Execution and deterrence: a quasi-controlled group experiment," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(5), pages 569-576.
- Chressanthis, George A., 1989. "Capital punishment and the deterrent effect revisited: Recent time-series econometric evidence," Journal of Behavioral Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 81-97.
- Leamer, Edward E, 1983.
"Let's Take the Con Out of Econometrics,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 73(1), pages 31-43, March.
- Passell, Peter & Taylor, John B, 1977. "The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Another View," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 445-51, June.
- Brumm, Harold J. & Cloninger, Dale O., 1996. "Perceived risk of punishment and the commission of homicides: A covariance structure analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 1-11, October.
- McManus, Walter S, 1985. "Estimates of the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: The Importance of the Researcher's Prior Beliefs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(2), pages 417-25, April.
- John Donohue & Steven Levitt, 2000.
"The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime,"
NBER Working Papers
8004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Donohue, John J. & Levitt, Steven D., 2000. "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt00p599hk, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
- Christopher J. Ruhm, 2000.
"Are Recessions Good for Your Health?,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
Oxford University Press, vol. 115(2), pages 617-650.
- Cameron, Samuel, 1994. "A review of the econometric evidence on the effects of capital punishment," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 23(1-2), pages 197-214.
- H. Naci Mocan & R. Kaj Gittings, 2001. "Pardons, Executions and Homicide," NBER Working Papers 8639, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Hoenack, Stephen A & Weiler, William C, 1980. "A Structural Model of Murder Behavior and the Criminal Justice System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 327-41, June.
- Yunker, James A., 1976. "Is the death penalty a deterrent to homicide? Some time series evidence," Journal of Behavioral Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 45-81.
- Ehrlich, Isaac, 1977. "Capital Punishment and Deterrence: Some Further Thoughts and Additional Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(4), pages 741-88, August.
- Shepherd, Joanna M, 2002. "Police, Prosecutors, Criminals, and Determinate Sentencing: The Truth about Truth-in-Sentencing Laws," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 509-34, October.
- Paul R. Zimmerman, 2004. "State executions, deterrence, and the incidence of murder," Journal of Applied Economics, Universidad del CEMA, vol. 0, pages 163-193, May.
- McAleer, Michael & Veall, Michael R, 1989. "How Fragile Are Fragile Inferences? A Re-evaluation of the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(1), pages 99-106, February.
- Lott, John R, Jr & Mustard, David B, 1997. "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(1), pages 1-68, January.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:emo:wp2003:0314. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sue Mialon)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.