Gender and Race Differences in Deterrence/Rational Choice Processes: A Consideration of Formal, Informal, and Affective Sanctions

Terri L. Earnest, Mississippi State University
Peter B. Wood, Mississippi State University

ABSTRACT
In recent years, the study of deterrence and rational choice processes has included a range of "informal" or "extra-legal" sanctions that appear to influence the likelihood that persons will engage in deviant or criminal acts. In addition to traditional legal sanctions like arrest, conviction, and incarceration, recent models have included a variety of informal sanctions, including self-stigma or shame, embarrassment, loss of the respect of significant others, loss of job or spouse, and other attachment and commitment costs. In addition, recent research on emotions suggests that affective responses to the commission of crimes may also influence the likelihood of offending. However, the literature is bereft of rational choice models that integrate formal, informal, and affective costs and/or benefits. Further, there is very little research that addresses gender and race differences in rational choice processes. We present findings from a survey of 726 incarcerated offenders (363 males and 363 females, 422 blacks and 290 whites) to explore the effect of formal, informal, and affective reinforcers on offenders' self-reported likelihood of offending once released. Results contribute to the development of a more comprehensive integrated model of rational choice and offer support for the consideration of gender and race differences in deterrence dynamics.

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Updated 05/20/2006