What Do Prosecutors Maximize? An Analysis of the Federalization of Drug Crimes

Posted: 16 Mar 2000

See all articles by Edward L. Glaeser

Edward L. Glaeser

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Brookings Institution; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Daniel P. Kessler

Stanford Graduate School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Anne Morrison Piehl

Rutgers University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Abstract

Recent legislation has expanded the jurisdiction of the federal government over crimes that were traditionally prohibited only by state law. We model the decision-making process of state and federal prosecutors, and the determinants of prosecutors` decisions to allocate drug cases to the state versus the federal systems. Using 1991 surveys of state and federal inmates incarcerated for drug crimes, we find that individuals who hire private attorneys and who are high-human-capital and successful in the legitimate sector are more likely to end up in the federal system. This is consistent with the model in which prosecutors maximize both the payoffs from eliminating crime and their private human capital.

Suggested Citation

Glaeser, Edward L. and Kessler, Daniel Philip and Piehl, Anne Morrison, What Do Prosecutors Maximize? An Analysis of the Federalization of Drug Crimes. Stanford Law School, John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics, Working Paper No. 170; American Law and Economics Review, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 259-290, 2000. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=205188

Edward L. Glaeser

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Daniel Philip Kessler (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

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Anne Morrison Piehl

Rutgers University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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