Do Greater Sanctions Deter Youth Crime? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design
43 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2018 Last revised: 30 Oct 2018
Date Written: October 25, 2018
We exploit the discontinuous jump in criminal sanctions at the age of majority in conjunction with administrative data from California to generate regression discontinuity estimates of the deterrent effect. Estimates show that the greater severity imposed upon adolescents at age 18 deters violent crime by 10-12%. Results are robust to multiple techniques and specifications. Using these results, we estimate an elasticity of crime with respect to sanction intensity that ranges from -0.145 to -0.174. We extend our results to demographic sub-populations and find female offenders, as well as white and Asian offenders, are relatively more responsive to sanctions.
Keywords: Juvenile Crime, Deterrence, Regression Discontinuity
JEL Classification: I38, J13, K42
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