IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Testing Enforcement Strategies in the Field: Legal Threat, Moral Appeal and Social Information

  • Gerlinde Fellner


    (Department of Economics, Vienna University of Economics and Business)

  • Rupert Sausgruber


    (Department of Public Economics, University of Innsbruck)

  • Christian Traxler


    (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods,Bonn)

We run a large-scale natural field experiment to evaluate alternative strategies to enforce compliance with the law. The experiment varies the text of mailings sent to potential evaders of TV license fees. We find a strong alert effect of mailings, leading to a substantial increase in compliance. Among different mailing conditions a legal threat that stresses a high detection risk has a significant and highly robust deterrent effect. Neither appealing to morals nor imparting information about others' behavior enhances compliance. However, the information condition has a positive effect in municipalities where evasion is believed to be common. Overall, the economic model of crime performs remarkably well in explaining our data.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in its series Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods with number 2009_31.

in new window

Date of creation: Sep 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2009_31
Contact details of provider: Postal: Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10 - D- 53113 Bonn
Phone: +49-(0)228 / 91416-0
Fax: +49-(0)228 / 91416-55
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
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.:

as in new window
  1. Fortin, Bernard & Lacroix, Guy & Villeval, Marie-Claire, 2007. "Tax evasion and social interactions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(11-12), pages 2089-2112, December.
  2. Lance Lochner, 2005. "Individual Perceptions of the Criminal Justice System," 2005 Meeting Papers 452, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Ariely, Dan & Bracha, Anat & Meier, Stephan, 2007. "Doing Good or Doing Well? Image Motivation and Monetary Incentives in Behaving Prosocially," IZA Discussion Papers 2968, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Traxler, Christian & Winter, Joachim, 2009. "Survey Evidence on Conditional Norm Enforcement," Discussion Papers in Economics 8992, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  5. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Kessler, Daniel P & Levitt, Steven D, 1999. "Using Sentence Enhancements to Distinguish between Deterrence and Incapacitation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 343-63, April.
  7. Ernst Fehr, 2003. "Psychological Foundations of Incentives," Microeconomics 0305010, EconWPA.
  8. Edward E. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & Jose A. Scheinkman, 1995. "Crime and Social Interactions," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1738, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  9. Blumenthal, Marsha & Christian, Charles W. & Slemrod, Joel, 2001. "Do Normative Appeals Affect Tax Compliance? Evidence from a Controlled Experiment in Minnesota," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 1), pages 125-38, March.
  10. Johannes Rincke & Christian Traxler, 2009. "Deterrence Through Word of Mouth," Working Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2009_04, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  11. Brian Jacob & Lars Lefgren & Enrico Moretti, 2007. "The Dynamics of Criminal Behavior: Evidence from Weather Shocks," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(3).
  12. Sah, Raaj K, 1991. "Social Osmosis and Patterns of Crime," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(6), pages 1272-95, December.
  13. David Reiley & John List, 2008. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00091, The Field Experiments Website.
  14. Gerald J. Pruckner & Rupert Sausgruber, 2009. "Honesty on the Streets: A Natural Field Experiment on Newspaper Purchasing," NRN working papers 2009-24, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  15. Bruno S. Frey, 2009. "Punishment - and beyond," CESifo Working Paper Series 2706, CESifo Group Munich.
  16. Urs Fischbacher & Simon Gaechter, 2009. "Social Preferences, Beliefs, and the Dynamics of Free Riding in Public Good Experiments," Discussion Papers 2009-04, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  17. Charles F. Manski, 2004. "Measuring Expectations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1329-1376, 09.
  18. Drago, Francesco & Galbiati, Roberto & Vertova, Pietro, 2007. "The Deterrent Effects of Prison: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 2912, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. McAdams, Richard H. & Rasmusen, Eric B., 2007. "Norms and the Law," Handbook of Law and Economics, Elsevier.
  20. Huck Steffen & Rasul Imran, 2010. "Transactions Costs in Charitable Giving: Evidence from Two Field Experiments," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-35, April.
  21. Ai, Chunrong & Norton, Edward C., 2003. "Interaction terms in logit and probit models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 123-129, July.
  22. Graetz, Michael J. & Reinganum, Jennifer F. & Wilde, Louis L., . "The Tax Compliance Game: Toward an Interactive Theory of Law Enforcement," Working Papers 589, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  23. Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst & Fischbacher, Urs, 2005. "Driving Forces Behind Informal Sanctions," IZA Discussion Papers 1635, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  24. Roberto Galbiati & Giulio Zanella, 2008. "The Social Multiplier of Tax Evasion: Evidence from Italian Audit Data," Department of Economics University of Siena 539, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  25. Levitt, Steven D, 1998. "Why Do Increased Arrest Rates Appear to Reduce Crime: Deterrence, Incapacitation, or Measurement Error?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(3), pages 353-72, July.
  26. Wenzel, Michael & Taylor, Natalie, 2004. "An experimental evaluation of tax-reporting schedules: a case of evidence-based tax administration," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2785-2799, December.
  27. Simon P. Anderson & Stephen Coate, 2003. "Market Provision of Broadcasting: A Welfare Analysis," Virginia Economics Online Papers 358, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  28. Rafael Di Tella & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2004. "Do Police Reduce Crime? Estimates Using the Allocation of Police Forces After a Terrorist Attack," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 115-133, March.
  29. Steven D. Levitt, 2002. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effects of Police on Crime: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1244-1250, September.
  30. Ellickson, Robert C, 1998. "Law and Economics Discovers Social Norms," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(2), pages 537-52, June.
  31. Slemrod, Joel & Blumenthal, Marsha & Christian, Charles, 2001. "Taxpayer response to an increased probability of audit: evidence from a controlled experiment in Minnesota," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(3), pages 455-483, March.
  32. H. Naci Mocan & Hope Corman, 2000. "A Time-Series Analysis of Crime, Deterrence, and Drug Abuse in New York City," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 584-604, June.
  33. Aldo Rustichini & Uri Gneezy, 2000. "A fine is a price," Natural Field Experiments 00258, The Field Experiments Website.
  34. Angela K. Dills & Jeffrey A. Miron & Garrett Summers, 2008. "What Do Economists Know About Crime?," NBER Working Papers 13759, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  35. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
  36. Jen Shang & Rachel Croson, 2006. "Field experiments in charitable contribution: The impact of social influence on the voluntary provision of public goods," Natural Field Experiments 00323, The Field Experiments Website.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2009_31. 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: (Marc Martin)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.