We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip main navigation


Welcome to the class! In this class, we will learn how economic analyses can help us better understand our crime problems and come up with possible solutions. In the first week, we will go over the basic economic model of crime. This model gives us a theoretical framework to study why individuals commit a crime and what can be done to deter them from committing a crime. We will talk about the model in more detail in our next video, but in short, economists view crime as a result of a rational decision. Individuals we commit a crime if the net gains from crime is greater than the net gains from not committing a crime.
In other words, an individual we commit a crime only if crime pays. Of course, things can be more complicated and this simple may not be able to explain all the crimes we have. However, this model still gives us a simple, but very powerful framework to study crime problems, and research findings accumulated over the past few decades are full of evidence that support this rational choice model of crime. In week 2, we will take a closer look at these evidence. The economic model of crime has rich implications, but in this class we will mainly focus on two main determinants of crime the certainty and severity of the punishment, which influence the costs of committing a crime.
In weeks 3 and 4, we will explore questions such as “Can we lower crime by putting more criminals behind bars for a longer period of time? Does crime fall when more policemen patrol around neighborhoods, or when city governments put more surveillance cameras on street corners? If all of them reduce crime to some extent, which one is more cost effective strategy than others?” In weeks 5 and 6, we will look at factors that are not directly related to crime but may have important consequences on crime. We will ask questions like, “can we lower crime by adopting social policies that provide better public education, more generous income support or job assistance programs?
How does living in high-crime neighborhoods influence the residents’ criminal risk? If I hang out with delinquent peers, does it make it more likely for me to become delinquent myself?” At the end of our class, you will have better understanding of the crime problems we have and the contribution made by economists on crime research. But what’s perhaps even more important is that, you learn how to think and analyze like economist to tackle any question you may have about crime yourself. So that’s the plan for this course and I think we are ready to start. Hope you enjoy it.
Before we start talking about crime and economics, I would like to know more about your personal and academic background.
Why are you interested in economics of crime and what do you want to get out of this course? What is your background in economics and econometrics before? I will take the lead and introduce myself first.
My name is Songman Kang, and I am an assistant professor at Hanyang University in Seoul, Korea. I received my Ph.D. in economics from Duke University and worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University before joining Hanyang University. Economics of crime has been my main research area, and in my previous research projects, I studied the effect of economic inequality on crime, how criminal risk may be influenced by one’s educational experience, and whether a job assistance program for former prisoners can reduce their recidivism rate.
Crime is a serious problem in many parts of the world, and the fear of crime victimization greatly influences how we conduct our daily lives: where we should and should not walk at night, where we want to raise our children, and which part of the city we want to run our businesses without the fear of getting robbed. By the end of the course, I hope that you will have a better understanding of the current state of knowledge on economics of crime.
This article is from the free online

Economics of Crime

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education