From the 'Econometrics of Capital Punishment' to the 'Capital Punishment' of Econometrics: On the Use and Abuse of Sensitivity Analysis
49 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2007 Last revised: 19 Jun 2012
Date Written: September 2007
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.
Keywords: Sensitivity analysis, data mining, capital punishment, deterrence
JEL Classification: C52, K14, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation