Punishment and Deterrence: Evidence from Drunk Driving
37 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2012 Last revised: 24 May 2013
Date Written: April 13, 2013
Traditional economic models of criminal behavior have straightforward predictions: raising the expected cost of crime via apprehension probabilities or punishments decreases crime. I test the effect of harsher punishments on deterring driving under the influence (DUI). In this setting, punishments are determined by strict rules on Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and previous offenses. Regression discontinuity derived estimates suggest that having a BAC above the DUI threshold reduces recidivism by up to 2 percentage points (17 percent). As receipt of previous DUI violations increases future penalties for drunk driving, this is consistent with Beckerian models of criminal activity. However, enhanced penalties for aggravated DUI also reduce recidivism by an additional percentage point (9 percent), despite the fact that the enhanced punishments only affect the current penalties. This is consistent with models of bounded rationality for offenders, wherein expectations of future punishments are based upon previous punishments experienced.
Keywords: Recidivism, Punishment, Bounded Rationality, Law and Economics, Regression Discontinuity
JEL Classification: K4, I1, D8
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation