Panel Paper: Do Greater Sanctions Deter Youth Crime? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Taylor - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Nicholas Lovett, University of Wisconsin, Whitewater

We exploit the discontinuous jump in criminal sanctions at the age of majority in conjunction with administrative data from California to generate regression discontinuity estimates of the deterrent effect. Estimates show that the greater severity imposed upon adolescents at age 18 deters violent crime by 10-12%. Results are robust to multiple techniques and specifications. Using these results, we estimate an elasticity of crime with respect to sanction intensity that ranges from -0.145 to -0.174. We extend our results to demographic sub-populations and find female offenders, as well as white and Asian offenders, are relatively more responsive to sanctions.