Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Crime and Justice

First Advisor's Name

Stewart J. D'Alessio

First Advisor's Committee Title

Co-Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Lisa Stolzenberg

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Co-Committee chair

Third Advisor's Name

Carleen Vincent-Robinson

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Valerie Patterson

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Deterrence theory, criminal decision-making, ordinal regression, multilevel modeling

Date of Defense



This dissertation serves as the seminal large-scale empirical analysis of the marginal deterrence principle. The extant literature on deterrence suffers from a great deal of controversy for two distinct reasons. First, prior research adheres to a myopic view of criminal offender decision-making because it focuses solely on the binary “yes” or “no” decision to commit a crime. It is thus plausible that prior work suppressed deterrent effects to some degree because the use of a binary outcome ignores any intermediate decision made by the criminal offender. Second, while the determination to perpetrate a crime is dependent on the sum of risk and reward, prior empirical work exclusively investigates the concept of risk and neglects the potential pleasure/reward an individual derives from partaking in criminal activity. Consequently, it remains unknown how criminal offenders respond to the coalescence of the concepts of pain and pleasure.

The marginal deterrence principle maintains that criminal offenders choose to perpetrate less severe forms of crime when the risk exceeds the potential reward, reducing the overall harm imposed on society. Using multilevel data and an ordinal dependent variable that includes six possible intermediate outcomes, I examine a robbery offender’s complete utility calculus with an illicit incentive independent variable comprised of risk and monetary reward. After nesting 29,297 robbery incidents within 98 cities, results from a multilevel ordinal regression equation reveal evidence of an illicit incitement effect. Specifically, a one-unit increase in the illicit incentive amplifies the odds that offenders will escalate the severity of their robbery by a factor of one. These findings support the view that pleasure rooted in monetary incentives engenders the commission of more severe forms of robbery. The observed salience of monetary incentives is important for advancing interventions that seek to combat violent forms of robbery through the marginal deterrence framework.




Included in

Criminology Commons



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