Christian Traxler (Hertie School)
9 May 2023 @ 12:00 - 13:15
- Past event
Swiftness and Delay of Punishment
Abstract. This paper studies how swiftness and delay of punishment affect behavior. We leverage rich data on the enforcement of speed limits by automated speed cameras. The data allow us to track cars’ driving histories over time as well as the exact time when tickets are sent, delivered, and paid. To identify the effect of swift or delayed tickets on payment and driving outcomes, we exploit two sources of (quasi-)experimental variation: (1) at the start of the speed camera systems, administrative issues caused large delays in the time between an offense and the sending of a ticket; (2) in cooperation with the authority, we later introduced a protocol that randomized the sequence at which tickets were processed. We get two sets of results. First, we find significantly negative effects of delays on payment compliance. Relative to tickets sent within 4 weeks after an offense, the rate of timely paid fines drops by 7 to 9% when a ticket is delayed by four or more weeks. We also find evidence that very swift tickets, which are sent within the first day after an offense, increase timely payments. These findings are in line with the expectations of academic economists and criminologists, which we elicited in a survey. Our second set of results shows that tickets cause a strong, immediate, and persistent drop in speeding. However, we do not detect any differential effect from swift or delayed tickets. This conflicts with widely held beliefs about the benefits of swift punishment, which are also mirrored in the responses to our survey.