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Joseph Stiglitz, Aaron Edlin, and J. Bradford DeLong

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231143653

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231143653.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM COLUMBIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.columbia.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CUPSO for personal use.date: 19 September 2021

The Economics of Capital Punishment

The Economics of Capital Punishment

(p.237) Chapter 27 The Economics of Capital Punishment
The Economists' Voice

Richard A. Posner

Columbia University Press

This chapter presents an argument in favor of the United States continuing the practice of capital punishment, on the basis of its effectiveness as a deterrent. Early empirical analysis by Isaac Ehrlich (1975) found a substantial incremental deterrent effect of capital punishment, a finding that coincides with the common sense of the situation: it is exceedingly rare for a defendant who has a choice to prefer being executed to being imprisoned for life. Recent work by economists Hashem Dezhbakhsh, Paul Rubin, and Joanna Shepherd (2003) provides strong support for Ehrlich's thesis; these authors found, in a careful econometric analysis, that one execution deters eighteen murders. As for the risk of executing an innocent person, this is exceedingly small.

Keywords:   death penalty, capital punishment, deterrence, Isaac Ehrlich, Hashem Dezhbakhsh, Paul Rubin, Joanna Shepherd

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