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The Deterrence Effect of Prison: Dynamic Theory and Evidence: *

David S. Lee and Justin McCrary

A chapter in Regression Discontinuity Designs, 2017, vol. 38, pp 73-146 from Emerald Publishing Ltd

Abstract: Abstract Using administrative, longitudinal data on felony arrests in Florida, we exploit the discontinuous increase in the punitiveness of criminal sanctions at 18 to estimate the deterrence effect of incarceration. Our analysis suggests a 2% decline in the log-odds of offending at 18, with standard errors ruling out declines of 11% or more. We interpret these magnitudes using a stochastic dynamic extension of Becker’s (1968) model of criminal behavior. Calibrating the model to match key empirical moments, we conclude that deterrence elasticities with respect to sentence lengths are no more negative than - 0 . 13 for young offenders.

Keywords: Prison; deterrence; self-control; D9; K4 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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