Economics of Crime
Penn State University

Reading List

The readings below should be completed prior to the start of each assigned week. They will be referenced in class material.  For American Prison, the even chapters most closely correspond with the course material. The odd chapters detail the author's experience inside the prison and the even chapters will focus on the history, sociology, and economics of the American prison system. For Narconomics, each chapter can be read with the course material.

Econ 397 Course Site
  • 01/


    Economics of Crime: Chapter 1
    American Prisons: Introduction, Chapters 1 and 2

    Cook, P. J., Machin, S., Marie, O., and G. Mastrobuoni (2014). "Lessons from the economics of crime." CentrePiece, 18(3), 7-9.

  • 02/

    Punishments & Fines

    Economics of Crime: Chapter 2
    American Prison: Chapters 4 & 6

    Levitt, S. D., & Dubner, S. J. (2014). "Where Have All the Criminals Gone?" in: Freakonomics

  • 03/


    Economics of Crime: Chapter 3
    American Prison: Chapters 8 & 10

    Mills, Eliza (2017, May 19). "How much does it cost to send someone to prison?" NPR Marketplace.

  • 04/

    Death Penalty

    Economics of Crime: Chapter 4
    American Prison: Chapters 12 & 14

    Ford, Matt (2014, June 23). "Racism and the Execution Chamber." The Atlantic.

  • 05/

    Race & Crime

    Economics of Crime: Chapter 5
    American Prison: Chapters 16 & 18

    Barry-Jester, Anna M. (2018, June 19). You’ve Been Arrested. Will You Get Bail? Can You Pay It? It May All Depend On Your Judge. FiveThirtyEight

  • 06/

    Private Deterrence

    Economics of Crime: Chapter 6
    American Prison: Chapters 20 & 22

    Kaysen, Ronda (2017, December 22). Do Security Systems Make Your Home Safer? New York Times.

  • 07/


    Economics of Crime: Chapter 7
    Narconomics: Introduction, Chapters 1 and 2

    Becker, G. and Kevin Murphy (2013, January 4). Have We Lost the War on Drugs? Wall Street Journal.

  • 08/

    Social Reforms

    Economics of Crime: Chapter 8
    Narconomics: Chapters 3 and 4

    Vanek Smith, Stacey and Cardiff Garcia (2018, August 14). From Prison To The Workforce. NPR's Planet Money.

  • 09/


    Narconomics: Chapters 5 and 6

    Venkatesh, Sudhir (2008, January 9). What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire?. Freakonomics Blog

    Venkatesh, Sudhir (2008, April 8). The Gang TaxFreakonomics Blog

    Dubner, Stephen (2008, April 22) What’s Your Best Idea to Cut Gun Deaths?. Freakonomics Blog

  • 10/


    Narconomics -- Chapters 7 and 8

    Levitt, S. D., & Dubner, S. J. (2009). "Why Should Suicide Bombers Buy Life Insurance" in: Super Freakonomics. William Morrow, New York.

  • 11/


    Narconomics: Chapters 9, 10, and Conclusion

    Eschner, S. (2017, September 1). The 1919 Black Sox Baseball Scandal Was Just One of Many. Smithsonian Magazine.

  • 12/


    Smith, Adam and Bruce Yandle (2014) "Sin and Substance: Who are the Real Bootleggers and Baptists" in: Bootleggers and Baptists. Cato Institute, Washington DC. pages 77-88

    Klein, Christopher. (17 November 2017) How Prohibition Gave Birth to NASCAR., A&E Television Networks.

  • 13/


    Venkatesh, Sudhur (2010, September 12). Five myths about prostitution. Washington Post.

    Levitt, S. D., & Dubner, S. J. (2009). "How is a Street Prostitute Like a Department-Store Santa" in: Super Freakonomics. William Morrow, New York.

  • 14/

    Financial Crimes

    Ryder, Brett. (2016, October 27). “Jail Bait,The Economist.

    Segarra, Marielle (2018, September 14). "How forensic accountants help bring down white-collar criminals and drug kingpins," NPR Marketplace.

    Charney, Noah (2017, April 2). "The secret lives of works of art: What percentage of a museum’s holdings are likely to be fakes?" Salon.