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The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Evidence from a "Judicial Experiment"

Posted: 29 Feb 2008  

Hashem Dezhbakhsh

Emory University - Department of Economics

Joanna Shepherd

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: July 2006

Abstract

We use panel data for 50 states during the 1960-2000 period to examine the deterrent effect of capital punishment, using the moratorium as a "judicial experiment." We compare murder rates immediately before and after changes in states' death penalty laws, drawing on cross-state variations in the timing and duration of the moratorium. The regression analysis supplementing the before-and-after comparisons disentangles the effect of lifting the moratorium on murder from the effect of actual executions on murder. Results suggest that capital punishment has a deterrent effect, and that executions have a distinct effect which compounds the deterrent effect of merely (re)instating the death penalty. The finding is robust across 96 regression models. (JEL C1, K1)

Suggested Citation

Dezhbakhsh, Hashem and Shepherd, Joanna, The Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment: Evidence from a "Judicial Experiment" (July 2006). Economic Inquiry, Vol. 44, Issue 3, pp. 512-535, 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1095598 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ei/cbj032

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)

Joanna Shepherd

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-8957 (Phone)

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