Prison Population and Crime
Thomas B. Marvell
August 13, 2009
This is a critical review of the literature concerning the impact of prison populations on crime. It summarizes 44 time series studies that use prison population in the crime equation, emphasizing problems of simultaneity and disaggregation bias. It briefly reviews studies that estimate the incapacation impact of prisons by using criminals' individual crime rates, emphasizing problems caused by skewness of the crime rates and their relationship with arrest rates. Almost all the numerous problems with prior research bias results towards finding that prisons have limited impacts, and once the problems are addressed the best estimate of the elasticity of prison populations on crime is about 1.0.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 45
Keywords: crime, prison, endogeneity
JEL Classification: C23, C33, K40
Date posted: August 16, 2009