Re-Examining Criminal Behavior: The Importance of Omitted Variable Bias

Univ. of Georgia Economics Working Paper No. 01-482

26 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2001

See all articles by David B. Mustard

David B. Mustard

University of Georgia - C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry College of Business - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; University of Georgia Law School

Date Written: October 2001

Abstract

Recently many papers have used the arrest rate to measure punishments in crime-rate regressions. However, arrest rates account for only a portion of the criminal sanction. Conviction rates and time served are theoretically important, but rarely used, and excluding them generates omitted variable bias if they are correlated with the arrest rate. This paper uses the most complete set of conviction and sentencing data to show that arrest rates are negatively correlated with these normally excluded variables. Consequently, previous estimates of arrest rate impacts are understated by as much as 50%. Also, conviction rates, but not sentence lengths, have significant explanatory power in standard crime-rate regressions.

JEL Classification: K4

Suggested Citation

Mustard, David B., Re-Examining Criminal Behavior: The Importance of Omitted Variable Bias (October 2001). Univ. of Georgia Economics Working Paper No. 01-482. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=289114 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.289114

David B. Mustard (Contact Author)

University of Georgia - C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry College of Business - Department of Economics ( email )

Athens, GA 30602-6254
United States
706-542-3624 (Phone)
706-542-3376 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.terry.uga.edu/~dmustard/

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

University of Georgia Law School

225 Herty Drive
Athens, GA 30602
United States

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