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Punishment and Deterrence: Evidence from Drunk Driving

Benjamin Hansen

University of Oregon - Department of Economics

February 7, 2013

Traditional economic models of criminal behavior have straightforward predictions: raising the expected cost of crime via apprehension probabilities or punishments decreases crime. I test the forward and backward looking behavior of criminals using punishments from driving under the influence (DUI). Punishments are determined by strict rules on BAC and previous offenses. Regression discontinuity derived estimates suggest that having a BAC above the DUI threshold reduces recidivism by up to 2 percentage points (17 percent). As previous DUI violations increase future penalties for drunk driving, this is consistent with Beckerian models of criminal activity. However, enhanced penalties for aggravated DUI also reduce recidivism by an additional percentage point (9 percent), despite the fact that the enhanced punishments only affect the current penalties. This suggests criminals are bounded in their rationality, wherein expectations of future punishments are based upon previous punishments experienced.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 38

Keywords: Recidivism, Deterrence, Crime, Law and Economics, Bounded Rationality, Drunk Driving, Regression Discontinuity

JEL Classification: K4, I1, D8

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Date posted: November 8, 2011 ; Last revised: February 16, 2013

Suggested Citation

Hansen, Benjamin, Punishment and Deterrence: Evidence from Drunk Driving (February 7, 2013). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1956180 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1956180

Contact Information

Benjamin Hansen (Contact Author)
University of Oregon - Department of Economics ( email )
Eugene, OR 97403
United States
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