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From the 'Econometrics of Capital Punishment' to the 'Capital Punishment' of Econometrics: On the Use and Abuse of Sensitivity Analysis


Hashem Dezhbakhsh


Emory University - Department of Economics

Paul H. Rubin


Emory University - Department of Economics

September 2007

Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No. 07-18
3rd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Papers
Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 07-21

Abstract:     
The academic debate over the deterrent effect of capital punishment has intensified again with a major policy outcome at stake. About two dozen empirical studies have recently emerged that explore the issue. Donohue and Wolfers (2005) claim to have examined the recent studies and shown the evidence is not robust to specification changes. We argue that the narrow scope of their study does not warrant this claim. Moreover, focusing on our two studies that they have examined, we show the deterrence findings to be robust, while their work has serious flaw in analysis and selectivity in reporting the results. The selectivity is biased toward showing "no deterrence." This highlights the importance of a proper framework for guiding the sensitivity analysis of published work to guard against data-mining and agenda-driven empiricism. We hope that our study generates interest in appropriate ways to do sensitivity analysis of published work as much as it contributes to the debate about capital punishment.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 49

Keywords: Sensitivity analysis, data mining, capital punishment, deterrence

JEL Classification: C52, K14, K42

working papers series


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Date posted: October 3, 2007 ; Last revised: June 19, 2012

Suggested Citation

Dezhbakhsh, Hashem and Rubin, Paul H., From the 'Econometrics of Capital Punishment' to the 'Capital Punishment' of Econometrics: On the Use and Abuse of Sensitivity Analysis (September 2007). Emory Law and Economics Research Paper No. 07-18; 3rd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Papers; Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 07-21. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1018533 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1018533

Contact Information

Hashem Dezhbakhsh (Contact Author)
Emory University - Department of Economics ( email )
1602 Fishburne Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-4679 (Phone)
404-727-4639 (Fax)
Paul H. Rubin
Emory University - Department of Economics ( email )
1602 Fishburne Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-931-0493 (Phone)
630-604-9609 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.economics.emory.edu/Rubi.htm
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