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The Economists' VoiceTop Economists Take On Today's Problems$
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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 Death Penalty

The Death Penalty

No Evidence for Deterrence

Chapter:
(p.247) Chapter 29 The Death Penalty
Source:
The Economists' Voice
Author(s):

John Donohue

Justin J. Wolfers

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231143653.003.0029

This chapter argues that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent against crime. The view that the death penalty deters is still the product of belief, not evidence. The reason for this is simple: the United States has not experimented enough with capital punishment policy to permit strong conclusions. Even complex econometrics cannot sidestep this basic fact. The data are simply too noisy, and the conclusions from any study are too fragile. On balance, the evidence suggests the death penalty is as likely to increase the murder rate as to decrease it; and if it does decrease the murder rate, any decrease is likely small. This evidence thus raises the question: Is it wise to spend millions on a process with no demonstrated value that creates at least some risk of executing innocents when other proven crime-fighting measures exist?

Keywords:   capital punishment, death penalty, deterrence, public policy

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