Crime, Punishment, and Myopia

58 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2005

See all articles by David Lee

David Lee

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Justin McCrary

Columbia University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: July 2005

Abstract

Economic theory predicts that increasing the severity of punishments will deter criminal behavior by raising the expected price of committing crime. This implicit price can be substantially raised by making prison sentences longer, but only if offenders' discount rates are relatively low. We use a large sample of felony arrests to measure the deterrence effect of criminal sanctions. We exploit the fact that young offenders are legally treated as adults--and face longer lengths of incarceration--the day they turn 18. Sufficiently patient individuals should therefore significantly lower their offending rates immediately upon turning 18. The small behavioral responses that we estimate suggest that potential offenders are extremely impatient, myopic, or both.

Suggested Citation

Lee, David S. and McCrary, Justin, Crime, Punishment, and Myopia (July 2005). NBER Working Paper No. w11491, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=762770

David S. Lee (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States
510-642-4628 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Justin McCrary

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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