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Free to Punish? The American Dream and the Harsh Treatment of Criminals

  • Rafael Di Tella
  • Juan Dubra

We describe the evolution of selective aspects of punishment in the US over the period 1980-2004. We note that imprisonment increased around 1980, a period that coincides with the "Reagan revolution" in economic matters. We build an economic model where beliefs about economic opportunities and beliefs about punishment are correlated. We present three pieces of evidence (across countries, within the US and an experimental exercise) that are consistent with the model.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17309.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17309.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
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Publication status: published as Di Tella, Rafael. "Free to Punish? The American Dream and the Harsh Treatment of Criminals." Cato Papers on Public Policy 1 (2011).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17309
Note: LE PE
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  1. Benabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2012. "Laws and Norms," IZA Discussion Papers 6290, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Jean Pierre Benoit & Juan Dubra, 2008. "Overconfidence?," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002142, David K. Levine.
  3. Eric Rasmusen, 1995. "``Stigma and Self-Fulfilling Expectations of Criminality''," Law and Economics 9506001, EconWPA.
  4. Rafael Di Tella & Juan Dubra, 2006. "Crime and Punishment in the "American Dream"," NBER Working Papers 12641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Hall, Peter A. & Soskice, David (ed.), 2001. "Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199247752, March.
  6. Rafael Di Tella & Sebastian Edwards & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2010. "The Economics of Crime: Lessons for and from Latin America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number dite09-1, August.
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