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American Economic Journal: Applied Economics: Vol. 4 No. 4 (October 2012)

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Estimating the Deterrent Effect of Incarceration Using Sentencing Enhancements

Article Citation

Abrams, David S. 2012. "Estimating the Deterrent Effect of Incarceration Using Sentencing Enhancements." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 4(4): 32-56.

DOI: 10.1257/app.4.4.32

Abstract

Increasing criminal sanctions may reduce crime through two primary mechanisms: deterrence and incapacitation. Disentangling their effects is crucial for optimal policy setting. I use sentence enhancements due to the introduction of state add-on gun laws to isolate the deterrent effect of incarceration. Using cross-state variation in the timing of law passage dates, I find that the average add-on gun law results in a roughly 5 percent decline in gun robberies within the first 3 years. This result is robust to a number of specification tests and does not appear to be associated with large spillovers to other types of crime. (JEL K14, K42)

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Authors

Abrams, David S. (U PA)

JEL Classifications

K14: Criminal Law
K42: Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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