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From the "Econometrics of Capital Punishment" to the "Capital Punishment" of Econometrics: On the Use and Abuse of Sensitivity Analysis

  • Hashem Dezhbakhsh
  • Paul Rubin

The academic debate over the deterrent effect of capital punishment has intensified again with a major policy outcome at stake. About two dozen empirical studies have recently emerged that explore the issue. Donohue and Wolfers (2005) claim to have examined the recent studies and shown the evidence is not robust to specification changes. We argue that the narrow scope of their study does not warrant this claim. Moreover, focusing on our two studies that they have examined, we show the deterrence findings to be robust, while their work has serious flaw in analysis and selectivity in reporting the results. The selectivity is biased toward showing "no deterrence." This highlights the importance of a proper framework for guiding the sensitivity analysis of published work to guard against data-mining and agenda-driven empiricism. We hope that our study generates interests in appropriate ways to do sensitivity analysis of published work as much as it contributes to the debate about capital punishment.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta) in its series Emory Economics with number 0715.

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Date of creation: Sep 2007
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Handle: RePEc:emo:wp2003:0715
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  8. Hashem Dezhbakhsh & Joanna M. Shepherd, 2003. "The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Evidence from a "Judicial Experiment"," Emory Economics 0314, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).
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  10. Donohue, John J & Wolfers, Justin, 2006. "Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate," CEPR Discussion Papers 5493, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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