March, 2015

Discounting and Criminals' Implied Risk Preferences

  • Jonathan Klick

    Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • Murat C. Mungan

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Conventional wisdom holds that potential offenders are more responsive to increases in the certainty than increases in the severity of punishment. In standard law enforcement models, this assumption implies that criminals are risk seeking. We add to the existing literature by showing that offenders who discount future monetary benefits can be more responsive to the certainty rather than the severity of punishment, even when they are risk averse, and even when their disutility from imprisonment rises proportionally (or more than proportionally) with the length of the sentence.

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