Theft and Deterrence
We report results from economic experiments of decisions that are best described as petty larceny, with high school and college students who can anonymously steal real money from each other. Our design allows exogenous variation in the rewards of crime, and the penalty and probability of detection. We find that the probability of stealing is increasing in the amount of money that can be stolen, and that it is decreasing in the probability of getting caught and in the penalty for getting caught. Furthermore, the impact of the certainty of getting caught is larger when the penalty is bigger, and the impact of the penalty is bigger when the probability of getting caught is larger.
This research was supported by a grant from the NSF. Steve Levitt provided useful comments on an earlier draft. We thank Duha Altindag for research assistance. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
“ Theft and Deterrence ,” with Bill Harbaugh and Mike Visser. (NBER Working Paper No: 17059). Journal of Labor Research . December 2013. Vol. 34 (4), pp. 389 - 407. citation courtesy of