Capital Punishment and Deterrence in Australia

Dr Vincent O’Sullivan1

1Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom

Analysis of variation in executions by year and state in Australia showed a small deterrent effect of executions on homicides. Data encompassing 1910-1980 were analysed. Ordinary Least Squares estimates showed that executions had a negative and significant effect on homicides. In general, the estimates implied a trade-off between executions and homicides that was similar across specifications. Nevertheless, the effect was small compared to the total number of homicides. Furthermore, the effect was small compared to those studies that also found a significant effect. The timing of elections was used as an Instrumental Variable to account for the endogeneity of executions. When the Instrumental Variables were not weak, the estimated effect of executions was negative but not significant.


Dr. Vincent O’Sullivan is an Assistant Professor in Economics, Lancaster University. He is an applied econometrician.


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