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Economics of Crime
Penn State University

Getting Started

With the semester fast approaching, I wanted to bring your attention to a few things before we officially get underway. I wanted to provide some early information so that you are aware of the course expectations and can switch classes if you aren’t able to complete the requirements this semester.

I will go over important parts of the course on Day 1, however, we will also start covering some material on the first day. Slides will be hosted in handout mode for each lesson, but you should add notes to each section as we progress through the lessons.

Econ 397 Course Site

  1. I'll talk very briefly about the layout of the course on the first day, but we’ll jump right into the material on the first day, so make sure that you come to class prepared. For each lesson, I will post handouts on Canvas, which you should download beforehand to take notes. I also recommend purchasing some colored pens or markers (I like these). Just reading the slides will not ensure you have all the material we cover inside and outside of class.

  2. Our class will be taught as a remote synchronous course, not an online course. For you, this means that you are expected to attend the online Zoom sessions during the scheduled class time. While you aren't required to physically be on campus, you are required to be on Zoom during the scheduled class time. A portion of your grade will be based on your participation in Zoom during the scheduled time.

  3. I post major announcements on Sunday mornings as a reminder of what's happening in the upcoming week. Update your Canvas preferences to get daily digests rather than individual emails each time something changes in your courses. I'll post the first announcement for the course about a week before courses are scheduled to begin.

  4. I have very high expectations for students in all of my courses, which is good to know before we begin the course. This course will be different from other economics course offerings and will feature a significant amount of reading and writing throughout the semester. I will provide chapters from various books as well as articles and blogs about various labor market topics. You are also expected to have your own copy of American Prison and Narconomics. I expect that you will be allocating at least 7-9 hours of work outside of lecture each week.

  5. You do not need to buy the textbook for this class! We will be using Economics of Crime this semester and the PDF is available online. If you want a physical copy, Amazon sells them for about $40 each. It's not required that you purchase a book, but it is required that you be actively reading the book.

  6. The only other material you are required to purchase for the course is a Packback subscription. I encourage you to pay for your subscription through Canvas because you'll receive a discount if you've used Packback in other courses.  The two books for the course are available through the library or can be rented online. Tableau Desktop and Tableau Public are both free programs that you will download when the semester starts.

  7. This course requires you to complete 6 projects throughout the semester using the data visualization program Tableau. About half of your grade in the course comes from the completion of these projects, and each has a written component. Your weekly quizzes will cover lectures and assigned readings and require you to submit short answer quizzes each week. If you would like to improve your writing skills, I think you would benefit from Deirdre McCloskey's book, Economical Writing. It provides concise tips about writing that you may find helpful. At 112 pages, most of you should be able to read it fairly quickly. While geared toward writing in economics, some of the lessons can be applied to writing in other business-centric fields (like Labor Relations). This book is not required, but previous students have told me they found it helpful.

  8. If you're new to data visualizations and using graphs to represent data, I have put together a coursepack at the bookstore that you may find helpful. It provides summaries of a variety of different visualization techniques, which you may find helpful for your projects.

  9. I recommend signing up for the Morning Brew, which will deliver a digest of important news topics to your inbox each morning. This is an easy way to stay updated on what's happening in the business world but also makes it easier to complete your Packback posts each week.

  10. ​I occasionally tweet economics stuff that can be beneficial to you. You can follow me on Twitter (don't feel obligated). If you'd like to follow some great crime economists, I'd recommend Scott Cunningham and Jennifer Doleac


I look forward to another great semester!

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