State Executions, Deterrence, and the Incidence of Murder

Journal of Applied Economics, Vol. 7, No. I, pp. 163-193, May 2004

Posted: 8 Oct 2004

See all articles by Paul R. Zimmerman

Paul R. Zimmerman

U.S. Federal Trade Commission - Bureau of Economics

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Abstract

This study employs a panel of U.S. state-level data over the years 1978-1997 to estimate the deterrent effect of capital punishment. Particular attention is paid to problems of endogeneity bias arising from the non-random assignment of death penalty laws across states and a simultaneous relationship between murders and the deterrence probabilities. The primary innovation of the analysis lies in the estimation of a simultaneous equations system whose identification is based upon the employment of instrumental variables motivated by the theory of public choice. The estimation results suggest that structural estimates of the deterrent effect of capital punishment are likely to be downward biased due to the influence of simultaneity. Correcting for simultaneity, the estimates imply that a state execution deters approximately fourteen murders per year on average. Finally, the results also suggest that the announcement effect of capital punishment, as opposed to the existence of a death penalty provision, is the mechanism actually driving the deterrent effect associated with state executions.

Keywords: Capital punishment, deterrence, executions, murder

JEL Classification: K42, H00

Suggested Citation

Zimmerman, Paul R., State Executions, Deterrence, and the Incidence of Murder. Journal of Applied Economics, Vol. 7, No. I, pp. 163-193, May 2004, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=601184

Paul R. Zimmerman (Contact Author)

U.S. Federal Trade Commission - Bureau of Economics ( email )

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