The compliance puzzle aside, a vast empirical literature investigates whether sanctions and detection probabilities affect behavior as predicted by the basic deterrence model. The short answer is “yes, but.” Econometric studies of real-world effects of certainty and severity of sanctions do show that both instruments affect behavior as predicted by the model. But the relevant elasticities are small and their estimation is difficult (Chalfin and McCrary 2017). Moreover, there is some evidence that swiftness (or celerity) of punishment—a factor absent from most deterrence models—has a noticeable effect on behavior as well (Hawken and Kleiman 2009). Evidence also suggests that certainty and severity of sanctions are not (always) interchangeable—people respond to probabilities more than to the magnitudes of sanctions (Durlauf and Nagin 2011, Nagin 2013). The reasons for this differential responsiveness remain unclear (Mungan and Klick 2016).
Posted on by Kelly Smith