Certainty of Punishment versus Severity of Punishment- An Experimental Investigation
Compliance with laws and regulations depends on the expected penalty facing violators. The expected penalty depends on both the probability of punishment and the severity of the punishment if caught. A key question in the economics of crime literature is whether increasing the probability of punishment is a more effective deterrent than an equivalent increase in the severity of punishment. This paper uses laboratory experiments to investigate this issue, and finds that increasing the severity of punishment is a more effective deterrent than an equivalent increase in the probability of punishment. This result contrasts with the findings of the empirical crime literature.
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