Does Capital Punishment Deter White-Collar Crimes?

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This paper examines whether capital punishment, either directly or via a spillover effect, has a deterrent effect on white collar crimes. Using data on nearly 150 nations and various dimensions of capital punishment, including capital punishment for non-violent crimes, we consider two widely prevalent white-collar crimes—corruption and the shadow economy. Nesting the empirical analysis in the broader literature on determinants of corruption and the shadow economy, we find that capital punishment in general reduced both corruption and the shadow economy, and the deterrent effect on the shadow economy was relatively more prevalent. Adding some empirical insights to the theoretical arguments surrounding the desirability of maximal punishments, results show some trade-off between the quantity and quality of punishment.


This article was originally published as Rajeev K. Goel & Ummad Mazhar, 2019. "Does capital punishment deter white‐collar crimes?," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(6), pages 1873-1897, June.