Deterrence works for criminals

Menusch Khadjavi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Criminal law and economics rests on the expectation that deterrence incentives can be employed to reduce crime. Prison survey evidence however suggests that a majority of criminals are biased and may not react to deterrence incentives. This study employs an extra-laboratory experiment with criminals in a German prison to test the effectiveness of deterrence and compares it with data of student subjects. Subjects either face potential punishment when stealing, or they can steal without deterrence. We confirm Gary Becker’s deterrence hypothesis that deterrence works for criminals (and similarly for students). We observe significantly more risk-seeking criminals than students, although the vast majority (80.77 %) of criminals behaves risk-neutral or risk-averse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-178
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Law and Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Crime
  • Deterrence
  • Inmates
  • Prison
  • Risk
  • Stealing


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