Penalty Enhancement for Hate Crimes: An Economic Analysis

24 Pages Posted: 3 May 2001

See all articles by Dhammika Dharmapala

Dhammika Dharmapala

UC Berkeley School of Law; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Nuno Garoupa

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 2001


The issue of bias-motivated crimes (also known as hate crimes) has attracted considerable attention in recent years. This paper provides an economic framework in which to analyze penalty enhancements for hate crimes. It extends the standard model by introducing two different groups of potential victims of crime; potential offenders' benefits from a crime depend on the group to which the victim belongs. The conditions under which penalty enhancements are socially optimal are derived. Choosing sanctions from behind a Rawlsian "veil of ignorance" concerning group identity does not alter these conditions. However, the (partial) exclusion of bias-motivated illegal gains from social welfare makes penalty enhancements more attractive. This conclusion also follows from the incorporation of fairness considerations that entail a social loss from different groups facing different probabilities of victimization. The paper endogenizes this social loss using a model in which victims can engage in socially costly avoidance activities that displace crime.

Keywords: Law enforcement, hate crimes

JEL Classification: K4

Suggested Citation

Dharmapala, Dhammika and Garoupa, Nuno, Penalty Enhancement for Hate Crimes: An Economic Analysis (April 2001). Available at SSRN: or

Dhammika Dharmapala (Contact Author)

UC Berkeley School of Law ( email )

302 JSP
2240 Piedmont Ave
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
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European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI) ( email )

c/o the Royal Academies of Belgium
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Nuno Garoupa

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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