Economics of Crime
Penn State University

Reading List

The blocks below represent readings assigned in each week of the course. We read two books over the course of the semester (American Prison and Narconomics), so the chapters don't always correspond to the material covered that week in class. The extra reading tends to be more closely tied with class material or serves as a preview for the upcoming lesson.

Students in the class are given PDFs of the reading posted in the course management system. Below, Amazon links to the book are included.

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. William Morrow, New York.

  • 03/


    Economics of Crime: Chapter 3

    American Prison: Chapters 8 & 10

    Mills, E. (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, M. (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, A.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, R. (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

  • 08/

    Social Reforms

    Economics of Crime: Chapter 8

    Narconomics: Chapters 3 and 4

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

  • 09/

    Organized Crime

    Narconomics: Chapters 5 and 6

    Acho, E. (2020). "Thug Life: Justice for Some." In: Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

  • 10/


    Narconomics -- Chapters 7

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

  • 11/

    Alcohol (2 weeks)

    Narconomics: Chapters 8, 9, 10, and Conclision

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

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

  • 12/


    Skirboll, A. "The Response." In: The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven: How a Ragtag Group of Fans Took the Fall for Major League Baseball. Chicago Review Press.

    Skirboll, A. "Epilogue: Déjà Vu" In: The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven: How a Ragtag Group of Fans Took the Fall for Major League Baseball. Chicago Review Press.

  • 13/


    Coyle, D. "Sex: can you have too much of a good thing?" In: Sex, Drugs, and Economics. New York: Texere.

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

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

  • 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.