Economics 499: The Economics of Crime, Fall 2013

Instructor: Prof. Jeremy A. Sandford

Office hours: TH 4:00-5:00pm, 335L B&E, or by appointment
Lecture: 3:30-4:45pm MW, BE 208


paper assignment

debate assignment

Homework #1, due 9/13/13
Homework #2, due 10/23/13, American murder mystery, When crime pays
Homework #3, due 12/6/13, Broken windows, What New York City owes James Q. Wilson, Broken windows: New evidence from New York City and a five-city social experiment


Wednesday, August 28: Introduction, description of crime trends 1960-present in the US
Bureau of Justice Statistics report on homicide trends
optional: An interview with Emily Oster

Wednesday, September 4: 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, September 9: 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, September 11: Crack and lead
reading: Szalavitz, Maia, 5/11/1999, "Cracked up,"
Drum, Kevin, 2013, "America's real criminal element: lead," January/February 2013 issue, Mother Jones
optional readings: Manzi, Jim 1/10/13, "Lead and crime", National Review
Drum, Kevin, various dates "Lead and crime linkfest", Mother Jones
Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use (figures from class, do not read)

Monday, September 16: Econometrics review: interpreting regression results and omitted variable bias

Wednesday, September 18: No class

Monday, September 23: 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, September 25: Immigration and crime
reading: Cowan, Tyler, 2/20/2010, "Latino immigrants and crime," Marginal revolution blog
Sampson, Robert, 3/11/2006, "Open doors don't invite criminals," The New York Times
Uniz, Ron, 3/1/2010, "His-Panic," The American Conservative
optional: 2011 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, Office of Immigration Statistics
optional:Statistics on illegal immigration

Monday, September 30: 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

Wednesday, October 2: 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

Monday, October 7: debates 1 and 2

Wednesday, October 9: debates 2 and 3

Monday, October 14: The economic model of crime
reading: Wilson, James (1983), "Thinking about crime," September 1983 issue, The Atlantic

Wednesday, October 16: 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, October 21: debates 4 and 5

Wednesday, October 23: debates 5 and 6

Monday, October 28: Katz, Lawrence, Steven Levitt, and Ellen Shustorovich (2003), "Prison conditions, capital punishment, and deterrence," American Economic Review, 5(2), 318-343

Wednesday, October 30: More on the death penalty
"More on the economics of capital punishment," "The economics of capital punishment," "Further comments on capital punishment," 12/18/2005, 12/25/2005, Becker-Posner Blog
optional:The cost of Colorado's death penalty, by Justin Marcequ and hollis Whitson

Monday, November 4: 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, November 6: 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

Monday, November 11: debates 7 and 8

Wednesday, November 13: debates 8 and 9

Monday, November 18: 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, November 20: Mandatory office hours (schedule to follow)

Monday, November 25: No class

Wednesday, November 27: No class

Monday, December 2: 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

Wednesday, December 4: 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

Monday, December 9: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

Wednesday, December 11: no class

Thursday, December 19, 8am: Final exam