The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Deterrence (Empirical), Economic Analyses of

  • Steven D. Levitt
  • Thomas J. Miles
Reference work entry


Empirical economic analyses of deterrence attempt to test the central prediction of Becker’s (1968) rational-actor model of criminal behaviour: that less crime occurs when the expected penalties are greater. When economists have broken the simultaneity of crime rates and crime-control policies, they have generally concluded that policing levels and the scale of incarceration reduce crime rates. Economists have made less progress in determining whether these reductions in crime are due to deterrence or incapacitation, but the research suggests that both effects are likely present. Evidence on the deterrent effect of capital punishment and particular victim precautions is far less convincing.


Becker, G. Crime and the city Crime, economic theory of Deterrence (empirical), economic analyses of Deterrence (theory), economics of Granger–Sims causality Incapacitation vs deterrence Public enforcement of law Punishment 

JEL Classifications

K42 K14 
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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven D. Levitt
    • 1
  • Thomas J. Miles
    • 1
  1. 1.