An Empirical Analysis of Imprisoning Drug Offenders

37 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2001 Last revised: 24 Oct 2010

See all articles by Ilyana Kuziemko

Ilyana Kuziemko

Harvard University - Department of Economics

Steven D. Levitt

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation

Date Written: September 2001

Abstract

The number of prisoners incarcerated on drug-related offenses rose fifteen-fold between 1980 and 2000. This paper provides the first systematic empirical analysis of the implications of that dramatic shift in public policy. We show that the increase in drug prisoners led to reductions in expected time served for other crimes, especially for less serious offenses. Reductions in time served, however, increased other crimes by no more than a few percent. Moreover, incarcerating drug offenders is found to be almost as effective in reducing violent and property crime as locking up other types of offenders. We estimate that cocaine prices are 10-15 percent higher today as a consequence of increases in drug punishment since 1985. Based on previous estimates of the price elasticity of demand for cocaine, this implies a reduction in cocaine consumed of as much as 20 percent.

Suggested Citation

Kuziemko, Ilyana and Levitt, Steven D., An Empirical Analysis of Imprisoning Drug Offenders (September 2001). NBER Working Paper No. w8489. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=285601

Ilyana Kuziemko

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Steven D. Levitt (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
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773-834-1862 (Phone)
773-702-8490 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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American Bar Foundation

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