Crime, deterrence and punishment revisited

Maurice J. G. Bun, Richard Kelaher, Vasilis Sarafidis, Don Weatherburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Despite an abundance of empirical evidence on crime spanning over 40 years, there exists no consensus on the impact of the criminal justice system on crime activity. We construct a new panel data set that contains all relevant variables prescribed by economic theory. Our identification strategy allows for a feedback relationship between crime and deterrence variables, and it controls for omitted variables and measurement error. We deviate from the majority of the literature in that we specify a dynamic model, which captures the essential feature of habit formation and persistence in aggregate behaviour. Our results show that the criminal justice system exerts a large influence on crime activity. Increasing the risk of apprehension and conviction is more influential in reducing crime than raising the expected severity of punishment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2303-2333
Number of pages31
JournalEmpirical Economics
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Crime
  • Deterrence
  • Feedback
  • Omitted variable bias
  • Measurement error
  • Panel data
  • GMM

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