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Assumptions Matter: Model Uncertainty and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment

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Abstract:

This paper examines how estimates of the deterrent effect of capital punishment depend on alternate choices of assumptions concerning the homicide process. Specific models of the homicide process represent bundles of these assumptions, which involve the unobserved heterogeneity, the relevant penalty probabilities for homicide choices, possible cross-polity parameter variation, and exchangeability between polity-time pairs that do and do not experience positive numbers of murders. We demonstrate how various assumptions have driven the conflicting findings from studies on capital punishment, and isolate a particular set of assumptions that are required to find a positive deterrent effect.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.102.3.487

Publication date: May 1, 2012

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aea/aer/2012/00000102/00000003/art00085
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