Marginal Deterrence at Work

46 Pages Posted: 8 May 2017

See all articles by Rosario Crinò

Rosario Crinò

Catholic University of Milan

Giovanni Immordino

University of Salerno - Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF)

Salvatore Piccolo

University of Bergamo, Compass Lexecon and CSEF

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 2017

Abstract

We test the rational economic model of marginal deterrence of law enforcement --- i.e., the need for graduating the penalty to the severity of the crime. We use a unique data set, which combines individual-level data on sentence length for a representative sample of US inmates with proxies for maximum punishment and monitoring costs across US states over 50 years. We show that the penalty is increasing in the level of the offense. Consistent with the marginal deterrence framework, we also document that a decrease in maximum penalty or an increase in monitoring cost are associated with longer sentences and higher monitoring rates. We also provide evidence that the effects of maximum penalty and monitoring cost are stronger in states where income inequality is higher. Finally, we show that steeper sanctions are associated with less harmful crimes. Overall, these findings favor the marginal deterrence framework over the maximal penalty principle and other competing theories of justice.

Keywords: death penalty, Enforcement Policies, Individual-Level Data, Marginal Deterrence

JEL Classification: K14, K40

Suggested Citation

Crinò, Rosario and Immordino, Giovanni and Piccolo, Salvatore, Marginal Deterrence at Work (May 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP12023, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2964846

Rosario Crinò (Contact Author)

Catholic University of Milan ( email )

1 Largo A. Gemelli
Milano (Milan), MI Milano 20123
Italy

Giovanni Immordino

University of Salerno - Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF) ( email )

84084 Fisciano, Salerno
Italy

Salvatore Piccolo

University of Bergamo, Compass Lexecon and CSEF ( email )

via de caniana 2
24127
Bergamo, BG 24127
Italy

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