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Model Uncertainty and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment

Posted: 25 Jan 2010  

Ethan Cohen-Cole

Econ One Research

Steven Durlauf

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School

Daniel Nagin

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: Fall 2009

Abstract

The reintroduction of capital punishment in 1976 that ended the four-year moratorium on executions generated by the Supreme Court in the 1972 decision Furman v. Georgia has permitted researchers to employ state-level heterogeneity in the use of capital punishment to study deterrent effects. However, no scholarly consensus exists as to their magnitude. A key reason that this has occurred is that the use of alternative models across studies produces differing estimates of the deterrent effect. Because differences across models are not well motivated by theory, the deterrence literature is plagued by model uncertainty. We argue that the analysis of deterrent effects should explicitly recognize the presence of model uncertainty in drawing inferences. We describe methods for addressing model uncertainty and apply them to understand the disparate findings between two major studies in the deterrence literature, finding that evidence of deterrent effects appears, while not nonexistent, weak.

Keywords: G31, G34, D82, C5, K4

Suggested Citation

Cohen-Cole, Ethan and Durlauf, Steven and Fagan, Jeffrey and Nagin, Daniel, Model Uncertainty and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment (Fall 2009). American Law and Economics Review, Vol. 11, Issue 2, pp. 335-369, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1540376 or http://dx.doi.org/ahn001

Ethan Cohen-Cole (Contact Author)

Econ One Research ( email )

United States

Steven Durlauf

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-2624 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Jeffrey_Fagan

Daniel Nagin

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

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