Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Economic analysis of the criminal justice system is important to decisions and choices made by consumers, businesses and the government. Not only is incarceration rapidly growing in Australia, but Australia spends the fourth-highest rate (per capita) on prisons, in the world. At the same time young Australians facing a number of social and economic challenges, are often over-represented in the criminal justice system. The unit considers economic disadvantage in the overrepresentation of particular groups in the criminal justice system, including Indigenous Australians in correctional settings, and strategies for ‘closing the gap’. Students will analyse the concept of a ‘rationale criminal’ and relevant economic theory that attempts to explain possible causes of crime. This unit will provide an overview of the socio-economic determinants, current trends, and costs of crime in Australia. Students will study the cost-benefit analysis of incarceration and the criminal justice system and critically analyse topics related to the underground economy. The aim of this unit is to provide students with the knowledge and analytical skills to understand and evaluate the contributions economists make to the understanding of crime and punishment and its resourcing.  

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe how economic theory, history and data have been useful in describing the causation of crime (GA4, GA5)

LO2 - Demonstrate the limitations of rational choice theory and outline recent developments in game theory (GA3, GA4)

LO3 - Analyse and interpret accurately the socio-economic determinants and trends in crime in Australia with particular reference to Indigenous Australians (GA4, GA5, GA8)

LO4 - Incorporate cost-benefit analysis studies to evaluate the costs and benefits of incarceration and recidivism (GA4, GA8)

LO5 - Obtain exposure to a large empirical literature on the economics of crime and risky behaviour (GA4, GA8, GA10)

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

  • Introduction – The ‘Rational’ Criminal;
  • The economic approach to crime;
  • The economic theory of criminal behaviour and the causation of crime;
  • Limitations of Rational Choice Theory;
  • The socio-economic determinants of crime and current trends in Australia;
  • Game theory;
  • The costs of crime;
  • Indigenous Australians and the criminal justice system;
  • Cost-benefit analysis of incarceration and the criminal justice system;
  • Economic theory of recidivism ;
  • The underground economy. This may include victimless crimes, drugs, money laundering, prostitution, guns and native animals

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit is designed to be offered fully online and will include synchronous delivery of unit content, collaborative online learning activities and other technology-enabled learning synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities to foster interaction between students.

In order to provide students with the knowledge and analytical skills required to understand and evaluate the contributions economists make to the understanding of crime and punishment and its resourcing, this unit uses an andragogical approach to teaching and learning with an emphasis on real-world application. Lectures will provide content and theory and tutorials will provide opportunities for students to work through case studies, discuss and debate concepts and develop skills and analysis in Economics. Therefore, this unit will incorporate a variety of teaching approaches as well as carefully designed materials to enhance both student interaction and accommodate for different learning styles. Pre-recorded or streamed lectures will provide content and theory and online tutorials will provide opportunities for students to work through case studies, discuss and debate concepts and develop skills and economic analysis.

 This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, videos etc.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment items have been particularly designed to cover a variety of tasks, support discipline accreditation standards, and enable differentiation of levels of achievement.

1. Application of Knowledge - Case study

This assessment has been chosen to optimise the learning experience by connecting the relevant economic theory to the real world. This assessment focuses on students demonstrating values, knowledge, skills, and attitudes appropriate to the Economics discipline and/or profession and develops the application, translation, and interpretation of economics concepts. It measures the learning outcomes LO1 and LO2.

2. Analytical research assignment

This type of assessment has been chosen to measure the learning outcomes LO3 and LO4 and requires students to locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information. Students develop the capacity to interpret, translate, apply, critique and evaluate Economic information on crime and punishment through a written assignment and presentation to peers.

3. Final exam

This type of assessment has been chosen to effectively measure the learning outcomes LO1 through to LO5 through testing students' critical thinking skills. In particular, students will be required to demonstrate the application of cost-benefit analysis to a particular economic problem involving incarceration and recidivism, solve a crime issue using game-theoretic context, perform an economic analysis of the case studies which might focus on underground economy and trends in socio-economic determinants of crime and offer economic implications of policies which relate to crime prevention and criminal justice system in Australia,  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Application of Knowledge - Case study

The students will examine a real-world case study on how theory, data, and history has shaped economists’ views on crime. Students will be required to discuss the limitations of rational choice theory.


LO1, LO2

GA3, GA4, GA5

Assessment Task 2: Analytical Research Assignment

This assignment requires students to study the socio-economic determinants, trends, and cost-benefit analysis of crime and present findings in written and oral form. Topics will be posted on LEO. This task will broaden your research, evaluative and communication skills.


LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA8

Assessment Task 3: Final Exam

This task requires students to think critically and reflectively; to apply skills in economic analysis and content knowledge learned across the semester.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA10

Representative texts and references

ABS (2018). Crime and Justice. Canberra, ABS. Available online:

Australian Institute of Criminology (2018). Crime Statistics Australia. Canberra, AIC. Available online:

Becker, G. (1968). Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach, Journal of Political Economy, 76 (2), 69-217.

Bushnell, A. (2017). Australia’s Criminal Justice Costs: An International Comparison. Melbourne, Institute of Public Affairs.

Bushnell, A. (2017). Indigenous Australians and the Criminal Justice System. Melbourne, Institute of Public Affairs. Available online:

Gray, M. Hunter, B. Biddle, N. (2014). The Economic and Social Benefits of Increasing Indigenous Employment. The Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research. Available online:

Palmer, A. (2018). Countering Economic Crime. A Comparative Analysis. New York, Routledge.  

PWC Australia. (2017). Global Economic Crime Survey. Available online:

PWC Australia. (2017). Indigenous incarceration: Unlock the fact. Available online:

Welsh, B. (2018). Costs and Benefits of Preventing Crime. New York, Routledge.

Yezer, A. (2013). Economics of Crime and Enforcement. London, Routledge.

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs