Crime, Punishment, and Expectations: Evidence From the Baltimore Light Rail

19 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2023

See all articles by Mohammad H. Rahmati

Mohammad H. Rahmati

Sharif University of Technology

David A. Hyman

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: October 5, 2023


Expectations matter in many domains – but do they affect whether people obey the law? We surveyed riders on the Baltimore Light Rail (which operates on an “honor fare” system) about their perceptions regarding the frequency of ticket checks; the consequences of getting caught without a ticket; their self-reported reasons for purchasing a ticket before boarding; and their willingness to engage in fare evasion under semi-exigent circumstances. We report the results of a structural model estimating how expectations influence whether people obey the law. We find the average assessment of the likelihood of ticket check is quite accurate, but riders who (mistakenly) believe the probability is lower than it is are much more likely to fare evade. Further, expectations with regard to the likely consequences of fare evasion are also heterogeneous. In our counter-factual analysis, perceived fines have little impact on willingness to fare evade, but a higher perceived likelihood of apprehension has an appreciable impact. Because marginal riders are pivotal in the rate of fare evasion, debiasing expectations among the whole population has little impact.

Keywords: crime, punishment, expectations, structural model

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Rahmati, Mohammad H. and Hyman, David A., Crime, Punishment, and Expectations: Evidence From the Baltimore Light Rail (October 5, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Mohammad H. Rahmati (Contact Author)

Sharif University of Technology ( email )


David A. Hyman

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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