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Crime, punishment and social norms

Author

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  • Weibull, Jörgen

    () (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics)

  • Villa, Edgar

    (Boston University)

Abstract

We analyze the interplay between economic incentives and social norms when individuals decide whether or not to engage in criminal activity. More specifically, we assume that there is a social norm against criminal activity and that deviations from the norm result in feelings of guilt or shame. The intensity of these feelings is here endogenous in the sense that they are stronger when the population fraction obeying the norm is larger. As a consequence, a gradual reduction of the sanctions against criminal activity, or of the taxation of legal incomes, may weaken the social norm against crime. Due to the potential multiplicity of equilibria in our model, such a gradual change may even induce a discontinuous increase in the crime rate. We show that law enforcement policies may have dramatic and permanent efects on the crime rate, and lead to hysteresis. We also define political equilibrium under majority rule and show how a majority of individuals, who feel no guilt or shame from violating the law, in political equilibrium can exploit a minority who do have such feelings.

Suggested Citation

  • Weibull, Jörgen & Villa, Edgar, 2005. "Crime, punishment and social norms," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 610, Stockholm School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:hastef:0610
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    File URL: http://swopec.hhs.se/hastef/papers/hastef0610.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Assar Lindbeck & Sten Nyberg & Jörgen W. Weibull, 1999. "Social Norms and Economic Incentives in the Welfare State," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 1-35.
    2. Fender, John, 1999. "A general equilibrium model of crime and punishment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 437-453, July.
    3. Assar Lindbeck & Sten Nyberg & Jörgen W. Weibull, 2003. "Social Norms and Welfare State Dynamics," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(2-3), pages 533-542, 04/05.
    4. Bar-Gill, Oren & Harel, Alon, 2001. "Crime Rates and Expected Sanctions: The Economics of Deterrence Revisited," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 30(2), pages 485-501, Part I Ju.
    5. Pommerehne, Werner W & Weck-Hannemann, Hannelore, 1996. "Tax Rates, Tax Administration and Income Tax Evasion in Switzerland," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 88(1-2), pages 161-170, July.
    6. Rasmusen, Eric, 1996. "Stigma and Self-Fulfilling Expectations of Criminality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(2), pages 519-543, October.
    7. Huck, Steffen & Kübler, Dorothea & Weibull, Jörgen, 2012. "Social norms and economic incentives in firms," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 173-185.
    8. Bruno S. Frey & Lars P. Feld, 2002. "Deterrence and Morale in Taxation: An Empirical Analysis," CESifo Working Paper Series 760, CESifo.
    9. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
    10. Assar Lindbeck & Sten Nyberg & Jörgen W. Weibull, 2003. "Social Norms and Welfare State Dynamics," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(2-3), pages 533-542, 04/05.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Cortez, Willy W., 2016. "Histéresis y Asimetría en Delitos: un análisis de los robos a nivel colonias en la ZMG [Hysteresis and Asymmetry in Crime: an analysis of robbery in Guadalajara´s neighborhoods]," MPRA Paper 80261, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised May 2017.
    2. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2011. "Laws and Norms," NBER Working Papers 17579, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Paolo Buonanno & Daniel Montolio & Paolo Vanin, 2009. "Does Social Capital Reduce Crime?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(1), pages 145-170, February.
    4. Salima Douhou & Jan Magnus & Arthur Soest, 2012. "Peer Reporting and the Perception of Fairness," De Economist, Springer, vol. 160(3), pages 289-310, September.
    5. Seiffert, Sebastian Daniel & Kukharskyy, Bohdan, 2016. "Gun Violence in the US: Correlates and Causes," VfS Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145946, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    6. Johannes Abeler & Daniele Nosenzo & Collin Raymond, 2019. "Preferences for Truth‐Telling," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 87(4), pages 1115-1153, July.
    7. Cervellati, Matteo & Vanin, Paolo, 2013. "“Thou shalt not covet”: Prohibitions, temptation and moral values," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 15-28.
    8. Paolo Buonanno & Giacomo Pasini & Paolo Vanin, 2012. "Crime and social sanction," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 91(1), pages 193-218, March.
    9. Ann‐Kathrin Crede & Frauke von Bieberstein, 2020. "Reputation and lying aversion in the die roll paradigm: Reducing ambiguity fosters honest behavior," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 41(4), pages 651-657, June.
    10. Feess, Eberhard & Kerzenmacher, Florian, 2018. "Lying opportunities and incentives to lie: Reference dependence versus reputation," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 274-288.
    11. Douhou, S., 2012. "Essays on (small) crime : Perception, social norms, happiness, and prevention," Other publications TiSEM e1430ee4-a1db-471d-bb39-4, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    12. van der Weele Joël, 2012. "Beyond the State of Nature: Introducing Social Interactions in the Economic Model of Crime," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 8(2), pages 401-432, October.
    13. Georgarakos, Dimitris & Fürth, Sven, 2015. "Household repayment behavior: The role of social capital and institutional, political, and religious beliefs," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 249-265.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    crime; punishment; social norm; political equilibrium;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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