When does cheating pay?

Answer: When the probability of getting caught, let alone punished, is small. Consider violent crime, by way of example. Our friend and colleague Alex Tabarrok does the probabilistic math here: “In 2017 … victims reported 2,000,990 serious violent crimes [e.g. rape, robbery, or aggravated assault]. In the same year there were approximately 446,510 arrests for these crimes (crime definitions may not line up exactly). In other words, the chance of being arrested for a serious violent crime was only 22%. Data on convictions are harder to obtain but convictions are far fewer than arrests. In 2006 (most up-to-date data I could find but surely lower today) there were 175,500 convictions for serious violent crimes. Thus, considerably fewer than 10% of violent crimes result in a conviction (175,500/2,000,990 = 8.7%). Put differently, the expected time served for a serious violent crime is less than 14 months….”

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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1 Response to When does cheating pay?

  1. Kathy H says:

    The statistics for white collar crime are even much lower. But talk about risk/reward. Is any time in jail worth the crime? Look at this high profile college admittance scandal where the media and government are trying to make examples of these rich people. I am sure the parents thought they would never be caught let alone criminally prosecuted. The money meant nothing to them. But now they face jail. I can’t believe that one of the actresses had to come up with 1 million in bond money. They don’t ask such high bail for violent criminals. I know what they did was wrong but does that even compare to rape, robbery, etc. The harm to others was minimal. (You can’t tell me those people crying because they didn’t get into the college of their choice couldn’t get into another college. There are so many colleges out there that they could attend.) Is a 1% chance of getting caught and going to jail worth it? A .05%?

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