The Effect of Capital Punishment Abolition on Crime: An Analysis of the Deterrent Effect


Spring 5-10-2021

Author's School

Olin Business School

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA)

Document Type

honors paper

Restricted Access



Capital punishment is a topic that has been a significant subject of debate in the United States for decades. The criticisms of implementing such a harsh punishment have been countered by the perceived impact of a deterrent effect, which asserts that the death penalty will deter people from committing crimes to avoid this punishment. The presence of a deterrent effect has been researched since the 1950s, but studies have seen mixed results based on varying analysis methods. Our research expands upon existing literature by using different analysis methods and more recent data from 2000 to 2019. We will use a contemporary lens to assess the validity of the deterrent effect with a difference-in-difference and matched-pairs analysis. The difference-in-difference method allows for comparisons between states before and after passing laws to abolish capital punishment. By evaluating violent and nonviolent crime before and after abolition, we can establish whether the crime rate is affected. Our results suggest that capital punishment has no deterrent effect on violent and nonviolent crime. In fact, for states that abolish capital punishment, there is a reduction in the violent crime rate and no significant change in the nonviolent crime rate. This research has implications for potential policy changes, which may include states reconsidering the use of the death penalty and conducting additional research into different methods to deter crime.


Dr. Tat Chan

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