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University of Exeter Business School

Economics of Crime

Module titleEconomics of Crime
Module codeBEE3074
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Arpita Ghosh (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will focus on the Economics of Crime, which is a rapidly developing field of research. You will learn about the traditional theories of crime and how it relates to Economics and extend your knowledge in topics like how to deter crime, costs of crime in individual and social lives, and policymaking. We will cover topics in deterrence and cost of crime, judicial systems, crime in developing countries, financial crime, etc, referring to the most cutting-edge research that is being carried out in this field. The literature discussed in this module will be on crime but a lot of the methodology, learning and structure can be also applied in other fields like education and health. Overall, this module focuses on building your knowledge on different topics in crime that economists research on.
The intended audience is third year students on economics degree pathways. The course is not intended for non-specialists. The pre-requisites for this module are BEE2025 or BEE2038. More empirically minded students will benefit having taken BEE1023 and BEE2031.


Module aims - intentions of the module

In this module, you will develop skills to understand and differentiate between correlation and causality in the field of crime. Moreover, you will gain insights into the policy fields in judicial and government departments. And lastly, it will also offer a chance to see how this knowledge can be used in your chosen future career. At the end of this module, you will be able to apply economic reasoning to look at such real-world problems and analyse the effectiveness of proposed solutions. You will learn to develop critical thinking, and academic arguments, and question the validity of assumptions in economic models. You will also learn to look critically at data used in academic literature and their results. This will be achieved through weekly lectures, tutorial discussions (alternate even weeks), guest speakers, individual reading, a group project, and an individual essay.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Discuss the traditional theories of crime and how it relates to Economics and extend your knowledge in the field of Economics of Crime.
  • 2. Apply economic reasoning to look at problems in topics like deterrence and cost of crime, judicial systems, crime in developing countries, financial crime and analyze the effectiveness of proposed solutions.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Question the validity of the assumptions in economic models.
  • 4. Explore the data used in academic literature and the corresponding results and reflect on them critically.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Form academic and analytical arguments in oral and written assessments.
  • 6. Demonstrate critical thinking capacity.
  • 7. Work collaboratively in a team environment.

Syllabus plan

  • Economic Theory of Criminal Behaviour
  • Incentives and Externalities
  • Criminal Labour Markets
  • Criminal Justice and Deterrence
  • Cost of Crime
  • Financial Crime
  • Organised Crime
  • Drug Crime
  • Rehabilitation and re-offending

In a two-hour optional computer lab with R, students will also have the opportunity to learn how to work with an example dataset empirically.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity22Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity4Tutorials
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity2Computer lab for interested students
Guided Independent Study124This will be in the form of directed reading in preparation for lectures, tutorials, and assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Tutorial discussions50 minutes1-6Oral – in class
Feedback in preparation of group work and essayAs needed1-7Email and/or Office hours
Feedback on coding skills in optional computer class2 hours (optional)1-6Optional computer lab for interested students

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual Essay702,500 words1-6Written comments
(Group debate + slides) + individual oral presentation3015 minutes (2 min approx. for each individual)1-3, 5-7Written and verbal feedback to group

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual EssayIndividual Essay (70%)1-6August/September Reassessment period
(Group debate + slides) + individual oral presentationIndividual understanding of chosen statement + slides (30%)1-3,5-7August/September Reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Becker, G. S. (1968). Crime and punishment: An economic approach. In The economic dimensions of crime (pp. 13-68). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
  • Ehrlich, I. (1996). Crime, punishment, and the market for offenses. Journal of economic perspectives, 10(1), 43-67.
  • Draca, M., & Machin, S. (2015). Crime and economic incentives. Annual Review of Economics, 7(1), 389-408.
  • Bell, B., Bindler, A., & Machin, S. (2018). Crime scars: recessions and the making of career criminals. Review of Economics and Statistics, 100(3), 392-404.
  • Rehavi, M. M., & Starr, S. B. (2014). Racial disparity in federal criminal sentences. Journal of Political Economy, 122(6), 1320-1354.
  • Buonanno, P., Vanin, P., & Vargas, J. (Eds.). (2022). A Modern Guide to the Economics of Crime. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Crime, Law, Judicial, Policing

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BEE2025 or BEE2038.

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date