Encyclopedia of Law and Economics

2019 Edition
| Editors: Alain Marciano, Giovanni Battista Ramello

Crime: Economics of, the Standard Approach

  • Paolo BuonannoEmail author
  • Juan F. VargasEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-7753-2_743


Economics of crime aims at studying, theoretically and empirically, which are the determinants of criminal behavior and how it is affected by incentives and punishment. In 1968, Becker presents a paper that radically changes the way of thinking about criminal behavior. Since the beginning of 1980s, Becker’s paper opens the door to a new field of empirical research whose main purpose is to verify and study the economic variables that determine criminal choices and behaviors of agents.


In 1968 Gary Becker published “Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach,” a paper that radically changed the economic approach to analyzing criminal (as well as all types of illegal) behavior. Criminal choice conduct is not determined by mental illness or bad attitudes. Rather, it is an individual’s choice, based on a maximization problem in which agents compare the costs and benefits of misbehavior. The costs are given by the probability of being arrested, the likely punishment,...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management, Economics and Quantitative MethodsUniversity of BergamoBergamoItaly
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversidad del RosarioBogotaColombia