Program on the Economics of Crime and Justice Policy
Program on the Economics of Crime and Justice Policy

The study of crime is almost inherently a multi-disciplinary venture. Criminology, though the only one that has the word crime buried in it, is just one of those disciplines. Law, sociology and psychology are three others that have long been recognized as contributing to an understanding of the sources of crime and the consequences of society's policy choices to control it.

Annual Crime and Population Dynamics Workshops are presently discontinued.

Related workshops may be planned by other sponsors.

Economics is a late entry to the field. One of Nobel Laureate Gary Becker's seminal contributions is a 1968 article entitled Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach 1, an essentially theoretical piece on how punishment might affect the decisions about the allocation of time between crime and legitimate employment. That launched, with fits and starts, a large empirical and theoretical literature extending the framework to a much broader array of causal and policy variables.

There has not been much interaction between economists interested in crime and criminologists. Each brings a different set of strengths to the topic. Criminologists have a richer understanding of the institutions of criminal justice, the character of crime itself and the data sets that describe crime and criminal justice. Economists bring unusually strong modeling and statistical skills. A longer statement about the benefits of integrating economics and crime by the directors of the Program on the Economics of Crime and Justice Policy has appeared in the January 2005 issue of the Criminologist, the bi-monthly newsletter of the American Society of Criminology. Please click here to read a version of the article.

The Program on the Economics of Crime and Justice Policy is an effort by the University of Maryland to bring economists interested in crime together with criminologists. It aims to do that through developing research collaborations and through teaching and training, involving the Criminology and Economics Departments and the School of Public Policy, as well as the Maryland Population Research Center. The Program is led by Peter Reuter and Shawn Bushway. Both are University of Maryland faculty with interdisciplinary training and experience in economics, public policy and criminology.

The goal of this web site is to provide interested economists and criminologists a means for learning about each other's contributions. The site has three components:

  1. Guide to important articles in Crime and Economics
    In an interdisciplinary enterprise, it can sometimes be difficult to find the relevant literature in other disciplines. We offer first a simple guide to searching the economics and criminology literature. We then also offer articles from two syllabi: A short course on the Economics of Crime taught for criminologists by Shawn Bushway, and a semester long course on Economics and Crime for economists taught by Steve Levitt.
  2. Working papers
    This consists of links to papers that are contained on other web sites, such as the National Bureau of Economic Research ( As the program develops, we plan on creating our own working paper series for articles on economics and crime.
  3. Current activities
    This lists events sponsored by the program, including a seminar series and a summer workshop funded by the Maryland Population Research Center.

1 Becker, Gary. S. 1968. " Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach." The Journal of Political Economy. Vol. 76, No. 2. (March-April) pp. 169-217.
Available from JStor.