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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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File URL: http://www.uq.edu.au/economics/abstract/400.pdf
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Paper provided by School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia in its series Discussion Papers Series with number 400.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:qld:uq2004:400
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  1. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1999. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," NBER Working Papers 6993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gray, Wayne B. & Deily, Mary E., 1996. "Compliance and Enforcement: Air Pollution Regulation in the U.S. Steel Industry," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 96-111, July.
  3. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
  4. Hey, John D & Orme, Chris, 1994. "Investigating Generalizations of Expected Utility Theory Using Experimental Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(6), pages 1291-1326, November.
  5. Stafford, Sarah L., 2002. "The Effect of Punishment on Firm Compliance with Hazardous Waste Regulations," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 290-308, September.
  6. Alm, James & McClelland, Gary H. & Schulze, William D., 1992. "Why do people pay taxes?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 21-38, June.
  7. Grogger, Jeffrey, 1991. "Certainty vs. Severity of Punishment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(2), pages 297-309, April.
  8. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  9. Murphy, James J. & Stranlund, John K., 2007. "A laboratory investigation of compliance behavior under tradable emissions rights: Implications for targeted enforcement," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 196-212, March.
  10. Timothy N. Cason & Lata Gangadharan, 2006. "An Experimental Study of Compliance and Leverage in Auditing and Regulatory Enforcement," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(2), pages 352-366, April.
  11. Cason, Timothy N. & Gangadharan, Lata, 2006. "Emissions variability in tradable permit markets with imperfect enforcement and banking," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 199-216, October.
  12. Rachel Croson & Uri Gneezy, 2009. "Gender Differences in Preferences," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 448-74, June.
  13. Robin Cubitt & Chris Starmer & Robert Sugden, 1998. "On the Validity of the Random Lottery Incentive System," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 115-131, September.
  14. Shimshack, Jay P. & Ward, Michael B., 2005. "Regulator reputation, enforcement, and environmental compliance," MPRA Paper 25994, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  15. James J. Murphy & John K. Stranlund, 2005. "An Investigation of Voluntary Discovery and Disclosure of Environmental Violations Using Laboratory Experiments," Working Papers 2005-7, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Resource Economics.
  16. Block, Michael K & Gerety, Vernon E, 1995. "Some Experimental Evidence on Differences between Student and Prisoner Reactions to Monetary Penalties and Risk," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(1), pages 123-38, January.
  17. Jeremy Clark & Lana Friesen & Andrew Muller, 2004. "The Good, the Bad, and the Regulator: An Experimental Test of Two Conditional Audit Schemes," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 42(1), pages 69-87, January.
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