Model Uncertainty and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment

41 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2007

See all articles by Ethan Cohen-Cole

Ethan Cohen-Cole

Econ One Research

Steven N. Durlauf

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School

Daniel Nagin

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 28, 2007

Abstract

The reintroduction of capital punishment after the end of the Supreme Court moratorium has permitted researchers to employ state level heterogeneity in the use of capital punishment to study deterrent effects. However, no scholarly consensus exists as to their magnitude. A key reason this has occurred is that the use of alternative models across studies produces differing estimates of the deterrent effect. Because differences across models are not well motivated by theory, the deterrence literature is plagued by model uncertainty. We argue that the analysis of deterrent effects should explicitly recognize the presence of model uncertainty in drawing inferences. We describe methods for addressing model uncertainty and apply them to understand the disparate findings between two major studies in the deterrence literature, finding that evidence of deterrent effects appears, while not nonexistent, is weak.

Suggested Citation

Cohen-Cole, Ethan and Durlauf, Steven N. and Fagan, Jeffrey and Nagin, Daniel, Model Uncertainty and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment (February 28, 2007). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 07-138; FRB of Boston Quantitative Analysis Unit Working Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=977560 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.977560

Ethan Cohen-Cole (Contact Author)

Econ One Research ( email )

United States

Steven N. Durlauf

University of Chicago ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-2624 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Jeffrey_Fagan

Daniel Nagin

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

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