The Deterrent Effect of Death Penalty Eligibility: Evidence from the Adoption of Child Murder Eligibility Factors
Duke Law School
Matthew C. Harding
Stanford University - Department of Economics
September 24, 2009
We draw on within-state variations in the reach of capital punishment statutes between 1977 and 2004 to identify the deterrent effects associated with capital eligibility. Focusing on the most prevalent eligibility expansion, we estimate that the adoption of a child murder factor is associated with an approximately 20% reduction in the homicide rate of youth victims. Eligibility expansions may enhance deterrence by (1) paving the way for more executions and (2) providing prosecutors with greater leverage to secure enhanced non-capital sentences. While executions themselves are rare, this latter channel is likely to be triggered fairly regularly, providing a reasonable basis for a general deterrent response.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 55
Keywords: death penalty, deterrence, capital punishment
JEL Classification: K14, K42
Date posted: May 7, 2009 ; Last revised: September 29, 2009
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