Economics 499: The Economics of Crime, Spring 2014

Instructor: Prof. Jeremy A. Sandford

Office hours: TH 12:30-1:30pm, 335L B&E, or by appointment
Lecture: 2:00-3:15pm MW, BE 306


paper assignment

debate assignment

Homework #1, due 1/31/14
Homework #2, due 2/7/14. Readings: Drum, Kevin, 2013, "America's real criminal element: lead," January/February 2013 issue, Mother Jones, Manzi, Jim 1/10/13, "Lead and crime", National Review
Homework #3, due 4/4/14, American murder mystery, When crime pays


Wednesday, January 15: Introduction, description of crime trends 1960-present in the US
Bureau of Justice Statistics report on homicide trends
optional: An interview with Emily Oster

Monday, January 20: No class (MLK day)

Wednesday, January 22: Possible reasons for the 1990's decline in US crime
reading: Levitt, Steven (2004), "Understanding why crime fell in the 1990's: four factors that explain the decline, and six that do not," Journal of Economic Perspectives, 18(1), 163-190

Monday, January 27: Abortion and crime
reading: Donohue, John and Steven Levitt (2004), "Further evidence that legalized abortion lowered crime," Journal of Human Resources, 39(1), 29-49

Wednesday, January 29: no class

Monday, February 3: Econometrics review: interpreting regression results and omitted variable bias

Wednesday, February 5: no class

Monday, February 10: Education as a determinant of crime
reading: Lochner, Lance and Enrico Moretti (2004), "The effect of education on crime: evidence from prison inmates, arrests, and self-reports," American Economic Review, 94(1), 155-189

Wednesday, February 12: Do police reduce crime?
Levitt, Steven (1997), "Using electoral cycles in police hiring to estimate the effect of police on crime," American Economic Review, 87(3), 270-290

Monday, February 17: Terror alert levels as an instrument for police hiring
reading: Klick, Jonathan and Alexander Tabarrok (2005), "Using terror alert levels to estimate the effect of police on crime," Journal of Law and Economics, 48(1), 267-279

Wednesday, February 19: debates 1 and 2

Monday, February 24: The economic model of crime
reading: Wilson, James (1983), "Thinking about crime," September 1983 issue, The Atlantic

Wednesday, February 26: The death penalty as a deterrent
readings: Ehrich, Isaac (1975), "The deterrent effect of capital punishment: a question of life and death," American Economic Review, 65(3), 397-417
Donohue, John and Justin Wolfers (2005), "Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate ," Stanford Law Review, 58, 791-845

Monday, March 3: no class

Wednesday, March 5: debates 3 and 4

Monday, March 10: Midterm exam

Wednesday, March 12: debates 5 and 6

Monday, March 24:Katz, Lawrence, Steven Levitt, and Ellen Shustorovich (2003), "Prison conditions, capital punishment, and deterrence," American Law and Economics Review, 5(2), 318-343
optional:The cost of Colorado's death penalty, by Justin Marcequ and Hollis Whitson

Wednesday, March 26 : debates 7 and 8

Monday, March 31: Prison conditions and recidividism
reading: Chen, Keith, and Jesse Shapiro, (2007), "Do harsher prison conditions reduce recidivism? A discontinuity-based approach", American Law and Economics Review, 9(1), pp1-29

Wednesday, April 2: Mandatory office hours to discuss paper (schedule TBA)

Monday, April 7: Medical marijuana and traffic fatalities
Anderson, Mark, Benjamin Hansen, and Daniel Rees (2013) "Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol Consumption", Journal of Law and Economics, 56(2), pp. 333-369

Wednesday, April 9: debates 9 and 10

Monday, April 14: Number of guns and the crime rate
reading: Duggan, Mark, (2001), "More guns, more crime," Journal of Political Economy, 109, 1086-1114
reading (skim, enough to get main ideas): Lott, John and David Mustard, (1997), "Crime, deterrence, and right-to-carry concealed handguns," Journal of Legal Studies, XXVI, 1-68

Wednesday, April 16: The social costs of gun ownership
reading: Cook, Phillip and Jens Ludwig, (2006), "The social costs of gun ownership," Journal of Public Economics, 90, 379-391

Monday, April 21: Guns and suicides
reading: Briggs, J. and A. Tabarrok (2014), "Firearms and suicides in US states," International Review of Law and Economics, 37, pp. 180-188

Wednesday, April 23: A drug gang's finances
reading: Levitt, S. and S. Venkatsh (2000), "An economic analysis of a drug-selling gang's finances," Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115, pp. 755-789

Monday, April 28: student presentations of papers (in reverse alphabetical order, beginning at 1:55pm)

Wednesday, April 30: no class

Monday, May 5 (1pm): Final exam
Download exam here after 12:30pm on Monday, May 5. Turn your answers into me by email before 3pm.