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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, so please save syllabus related questions for that day. 

Econ 397 Course Site

  1. I'll talk very briefly about the syllabus when we start class. We’ll jump right into the material on the first day, so make sure that you come to class prepared. I will try to post an outline of the course slides to Canvas, please print these out to make it easier to take notes. If you'd like to color code your notes, I recommend getting some colored markers (I like these). You don't need to bring your books to class.

  2. I will e-mail you A LOT during the semester. I will send emails through Canvas and directly to your PSU email address. If you don’t want to use your PSU address, please make sure that you’ve setup email forwarding so that you get all emails from me. Please check the announcements tab each time you login to Canvas. I recommend updating your Canvas preferences to get daily digests rather than individual emails each time something changes in your courses. You'll receive an email from me when the course officially opens (the week before classes begin).

  3. 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 very different from other economics course offerings and will feature a significant amount of reading throughout the course as well as small projects due every other week. I will provide chapters from various books as well as articles and blogs about various labor market topics. You are also expected to read the entire books, American Prison and Narconomics. My main responsibility is to push you to be the best individual you can be. At the end of this course, you will have a variety of projects that you can show to future employers as a display of the quality of your work handling data. I ask that you commit at least 7-9 hours of work outside of class each week. If you don’t think you can commit to that for the upcoming semester, please consider taking this course another semester.

  4. 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.

  5. This course does have a heavy written component that is completed throughout the semester. While the actual projects are only 2 pages long, many of you may benefit from a writing guide. I recommend you consider reading through Deirdre McCloskey's book, Economical Writing. It will provide some tips and tricks 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 . This book is not required, but previous students have told me they found it helpful.

  6. We will be using Tableau, a data visualization software to create unique visualizations throughout the semester. We will not spend a lot of time going over how to create these visualizations because the software is relatively intuitive once you get past the initial learning curve. You can download the Tableau Desktop application for your laptop and you'll receive an access code at the beginning of the semester. I recommend downloading the application and going through the Training Videos before we start the semester.

  7. There will be required discussion board posts each week over the readings you're assigned. We'll be using Packback. The total cost for Packback will be $25 this semester, but if you have other classes using Packback then they will give you a discount on additional courses. Don't sign up for it yet! I'll email Packback our class roster before the start of class and they will create an account for you. Your grade on Packback comes from your ability to ask and answer well structured questions. Simply responding that you agree will end up hurting your overall score.

  8. You will need an iClicker for this class. You should register your clicker online before we begin the semester. Attendance is mandatory in class as we will have guest speakers throughout the semester.

  9. We will use Canvas for our course site and all information/assignments will be posted there.  It is organized based on the assignments and will includes all reading sets, project information, and exam review information. I will be add material throughout the semester.

  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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