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What is a Gang and Why Does the Law Care?



The economic theory of optimal punishments states that the expected penalty for a crime ought to be equal (or at least proportional) to the social harm caused by the act. The Criminal Codes in both Canada and the United States allow for criminals to be penalized to a greater degree if they are a member of a gang. According to the economic theory, this would be optimal if either: 1) the social harm from a criminal act is greater for a gang member than for an independent criminal, or 2) the probability of conviction is lower for a gang member. We examine the extent to which both of these possibilities are true and use the findings to develop a (perhaps improved) definition of a gang. Classification-JEL K14, K42

Suggested Citation

  • Philip A. Curry & Steeve Mongrain, 2008. "What is a Gang and Why Does the Law Care?," Discussion Papers dp08-04, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
  • Handle: RePEc:sfu:sfudps:dp08-04

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dani Rodrik & Arvind Subramanian & Francesco Trebbi, 2004. "Institutions Rule: The Primacy of Institutions Over Geography and Integration in Economic Development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 131-165, June.
    2. Ruttan, Vernon W., 2006. "Is War Necessary for Economic Growth?: Military Procurement and Technology Development," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195188042.
    3. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 271-303, September.
    4. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
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    More about this item


    Crime; Criminal Organization; Enforcement;

    JEL classification:

    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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