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

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  • Rafael Di Tella
  • Juan Dubra

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Rafael Di Tella & Juan Dubra, 2011. "Free to Punish? The American Dream and the Harsh Treatment of Criminals," NBER Working Papers 17309, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17309 Note: LE PE
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17309.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2011. "Laws and Norms," NBER Working Papers 17579, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. 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.
    3. Benoît, Jean-Pierre & Dubra, Juan, 2007. "Overconfidence?," MPRA Paper 5505, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Di Tella, Rafael & Dubra, Juan, 2008. "Crime and punishment in the "American Dream"," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 1564-1584.
    5. Di Tella, Rafael & Dubra, Juan, 2008. "Crime and punishment in the "American Dream"," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 1564-1584.
    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, January.
    7. Hall, Peter A. & Soskice, David (ed.), 2001. "Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199247752.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Economic freedom and prisons
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2011-09-16 19:02:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Fernando Borraz & Cecilia Chouhy & Irene Mussio & Máximo Rossi, 2013. "Vigilante Justice and Police Protocols in the Latin American South Cone," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 0913, Department of Economics - dECON.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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