New Claims about Executions and General Deterrence: Déjà Vu All Over Again?
Version of Record online: 27 JUN 2005
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies
Volume 2, Issue 2, pages 303–330, July 2005
How to Cite
Berk, R. (2005), New Claims about Executions and General Deterrence: Déjà Vu All Over Again?. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 2: 303–330. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-1461.2005.00052.x
- Issue online: 27 JUN 2005
- Version of Record online: 27 JUN 2005
A number of papers have recently appeared claiming to show that in the United States executions deter serious crime. There are many statistical problems with the data analyses reported. This article addresses the problem of “influence,” which occurs when a very small and atypical fraction of the data dominate the statistical results. The number of executions by state and year is the key explanatory variable, and most states in most years execute no one. A very few states in particular years execute more than five individuals. Such values represent about 1 percent of the available observations. Reanalyses of the existing data are presented showing that claims of deterrence are a statistical artifact of this anomalous 1 percent.