Research for the Real World: NIJ Seminar Series - Benefit-Cost Analysis for Crime Policy

02/24/2011 - 10:30am to 12:00pm
Sponsoring Agency: 
National Institute of Justice
Event Contact
Contact Name: 
Yolanda Curtis
Contact Phone: 
Contact Email:

How do we decide how to allocate criminal justice resources in a way that minimizes the social harms from both crime and policy efforts to control crime? How, for that matter, do we decide how much to spend on the criminal justice system and crime control generally, versus other pressing needs? These questions are at the heart of benefit-cost analysis, and are central for public policymakers, criminal justice practitioners, criminologists, and other researchers.

Benefit-cost analyses begin with the crucial and often under-appreciated first step of successfully identifying the impact of a policy or program. Jens Ludwig and Roseanna Ander will explain the different options for identifying policy and program impacts, and discuss the challenges of attempts to monetize costs and benefits. For example, some of the most important costs and benefits of crime control efforts come from intangible aspects of well-being for which dollar values are not easily attached.

Ludwig and Ander will also discuss the importance of subjecting a portfolio of interventions to benefit-cost analyses that use standardized methodologies, which is crucial for helping policymakers and practitioners make decisions. Many of their ideas and examples will be drawn from activities at the University of Chicago Crime Lab.