Steven Levitt

Steven Levitt

William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor, Economics

Steven Levitt is the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the College at the University of Chicago, where he studies a wide range of topics including the economic aspects of crime, corruption, sports, and education. He also is a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the American Bar Foundation.

Levitt received a BA in economics from Harvard University in 1989, and his PhD from MIT in 1994. He was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows before joining the Chicago faculty in 1997.

He was an associate editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics before becoming the editor of the Journal of Political Economy in 1999.

Levitt is a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the National Science Foundation in 2000, and the University of Chicago's Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1998. In 2003, he received the John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association as the most outstanding American economist under the age of forty.

Freakonomics (William Morrow 2005) and SuperFreakonomics (HarperCollins 2009), books he co-authored, take an unusual look at the economics underlying real-life issues. Levitt's approach emphasizes asking the right questions and drawing connections. In the spring of 2006, he was named one of Time magazine's "100 People Who Shape Our World."


Harvard University

BA in economics, 1989

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

PhD in economics, 1994


The University of Chicago

William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and the Law School, 1997-present

American Bar Foundation

Research Fellow, July 1997-present

Harvard Society of Fellows

Junior Fellow, July 1994-June 1997

Corporate Decisions, Inc.

Management Consultant, August 1989-July 1991

Books (Author)

  • Microeconomics (2nd ed.) (MacMillan, 2015) (with Austan D. Goolsbee & Chad Syverson).
  • When to Rob a Bank: ...And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants (William Morrow, 2015) (with Stephen J. Dubner).

Books (Editor)

  • Economics of Criminal Law. (Edward Elgar, 2008) (edited with Thomas J. Miles). cu

Journal Articles

  • "The Economics of Crime," 125 Journal of Political Economy 1920 (2017).
  • "Bagels And Donuts For Sale: A Case Study In Profit Maximization," 70 Research in Economics 518 (2016).
  • "The Behavioralist Goes to School: Leveraging Behavioral Economics to Improve Educational Performance," 8 American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 183 (2016) (with John List, Susanne Neckermann & Sally Sadoff).
  • "Quantity Discounts On A Virtual Good: The Results Of A Massive Pricing Experiment At King Digital Entertainment," 113 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 7323 (2016) (with John List, Susanne Neckermann & David Nelson).
  • "What Field Experiments Have and Have Not Taught Us About Managing Workers," 30 Oxford Review of Economic Policy 639 (2014) (with Susanne Neckermann).
  • "The Role of Skill Versus Luck in Poker: Evidence from the World Series of Poker," 15 Journal of Sports Economics 31 (2014) (with Thomas J. Miles). cu
  • "Measuring Crack Cocaine and Its Impact," 51 Economic Inquiry 1651 (2013) (with Kevin Murphy & Paul Heaton & Roland G. Fryer). www
  • "What Can Be Done to Improve Struggling High Schools?," 27 Journal Of Economic Perspectives 133 (2013) (with Erin Robertson, Sally Sardoff & Julie B. Cullen). www
  • "Testing for Racial Differences in the Mental Ability of Young Children," 103 American Economic Review 981 (2013) (with Roland G. Fryer). ssrn www
  • "Is Texas Hold 'Em A Game Of Chance? A Legal and Economic Analysis," 101 Georgetown Law Journal 581 (2013) (with Thomas J. Miles & Andrew M. Rosenfield). cu
  • "Toward an Understanding of Learning by Doing: Evidence from an Automobile Plant," 121 Journal of Political Economy 643 (2013) (with John List & Chad Syverson ).
  • "Hatred and Profits: Under the Hood of the Ku Klux Klan," 127 Quarterly Journal of Economics 1883 (2012) (with Roland G. Fryer). ssrn www
  • "Inland Empire: Economics Imperialism as an Imperative of Chicago Neoliberalism," 19 Journal of Economic Methodology 259 (2012) (with Edward Nik-Khah).
  • "The Plight of Mixed-Race Adolescents," 94 Review of Economics and Statistics 621 (2012) (with Roland G. Fryer, Lisa Kahn & Jorg L. Spenkuch). ssrn www
  • "Predicting and Preventing Shootings among At-Risk Youth," 101 American Economic Review 288 (2011) (with John List & Dana Chandler). www
  • "Checkmate: Exploring Backward Induction among Chess Players," 101 American Economic Review 975 (2011) (with John List & Sally Sadoff). ssrn www
  • "Was There Really a Hawthorne Effect at the Hawthorne Plant? An Analysis of the Original Illumination Experiments," 3 American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 224 (2011) (with John List). ssrn www
  • "What Happens in the Field Stays in the Field: Exploring Whether Professionals Play Minimax in Laboratory Experiments," 78 Econometrica 1413 (2010) (with John List & David H. Reiley). ssrn
  • "Evaluating the Effectiveness of Child Safety Seats and Seat Belts in Protecting Children from Injury," 48 Economic Inquiry 521 (2010) (with Joseph J. Doyle). ssrn
  • "An Empirical Analysis of the Gender Gap in Mathematics," 2 American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 210 (2010) (with Roland G. Fryer). ssrn www
  • "Can Field Experiments Return Agricultural Economics to the Glory Days?," 91 American Journal Of Agricultural Economics 1259 (2009) (with David H. Herberich & John List). www
  • "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Teen Childbearing," 11 American Law and Economics Review 24 (2009) (with John J. Donohue & Jeffrey Grogger).
  • "Market Distortions When Agents Are Better Informed: The Value of Information in Real Estate Transactions," 90 Review of Economics and Statistics 599 (2008) (with Chad Syverson). ssrn
  • "Exploring the Impact of Financial Incentives on Stereotype Threat: Evidence from a Pilot Study," 98 American Economic Review 370 (2008) (with John List & Roland G. Fryer). www
  • "Evidence That Seat Belts Are as Effective as Child Safety Seats in Preventing Death for Children Aged Two and Up," 90 Review of Economics and Statistics 158 (2008). ssrn
  • "Measurement Error, Legalized Abortion, and the Decline in Crime: A Response to Foote and Goetz," 123 Quarterly Journal of Economics 425 (2008) (with John J. Donohue). ssrn www
  • "What Does Performance in Graduate School Predict? Graduate Economics Education and Student Outcomes," 97 American Economic Review 512 (2007) (with Susan Athey, Lawrence F. Katz, Alan B. Krueger & James M. Poterba). www
  • "Viewpoint: On the Generalizability of Lab Behaviour to the Field," 40 Canadian Journal of Economics 347 (2007) (with John List). ssrn
  • "What Do Laboratory Experiments Measuring Social Preferences Reveal about the Real World?," 21 Journal Of Economic Perspectives 153 (2007) (with John List). www
  • "The Black-White Test Score Gap through Third Grade," 8 American Law and Economics Review 249 (2006) (with Roland G. Fryer). ssrn www
  • "White-Collar Crime Writ Small: A Case Study of Bagels, Donuts, and the Honor System," 96 American Economic Review 290 (2006). www
  • "Black-White Test Score Gap through Third Grade, The Special Issue on Brown vs. Board of Education," 8 American Law and Economics Review 249 (2006) (with Roland G. Fryer).
  • "Economic Contributions to the Understanding of Crime," 2 Annual Review of Law and Social Science 147 (2006) (with Thomas J. Miles). ssrn cu
  • "Case of the Critics Who Missed the Point: A Reply to Webster et al.," 5 Criminology and Public Policy 449 (2006).
  • "Testing Theories of Discrimination: Evidence from Weakest Link," 47 Journal of Law and Economics 431 (2004).
  • "Prison Conditions, Capital Punishment, and Deterrence," 5 American Law and Economics Review 318 (2003) (with Lawrence F. Katz & Ellen Shustorovich).
  • "Honoring James Heckman's Contributions to Economics: Identification, Heterogeneity, and Economic Models Essays in Honor of James Heckman, 2008 Nobel Laureate," 27 Law and Social Inquiry 35 (2002).
  • "The Impact of Race on Policing and Arrests," 44 Journal of Law and Economics 367 (2001) (with John J. Donohue).
  • "Using Sentence Enhancements to Distinguish between Deterrence and Incapacitation Penalties: Public and Private," 42 Journal of Law and Economics 343 (1999) (with Daniel P. Kessler).
  • "The Limited Role of Changing Age Structure in Explaining Aggregate Crime Rates," 37 Criminology 581 (1999).

Book Sections

  • "Economic Analyses of Deterrence: Empirical," in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics., Lawrence Blume & Steven Durlauf eds. 2008) (with Thomas J. Miles). cu
  • "The Empirical Study of Criminal Punishment," in The Handbook of Law and Economics, A. M. Polinsky & Steven M. Shavell eds. (Elsevier, 2007) (with Thomas J. Miles). cu

Awards and honors

  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2002-present)
  • National Fellow, Harvard University Program in Inequality and Social Policy (September 1998-present)
  • Faculty Research Fellow/Research Associate, National Bureau of Economic Research (October 1994-present)
  • John Bates Clark Medal (2003)
  • Garvin Prize, University of California at Berkeley Law and Economics Workshop (2003)
  • Fellow, Center for Advanced Study of Behavioral Sciences (September 2002-May 2003)
  • National Science Foundation Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (February 2000)
  • Faculty Appreciation Award, University of Chicago Department of Economics graduate students (April 2000)
  • Duncan Black Prize (April 2000)
  • Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow (May 1999)
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award (April 1999)
  • Quantrell Award, University of Chicago (May 1998)
  • John M. Olin Research Fellow in Law and Economics, Harvard Law School (July 1995-June 1997)

Editorial Work

  • Editor, Journal of Political Economy (August 1999-2007)
  • Associate Editor, Quarterly Journal of Economics (1998-1999)


  • Panel Member, National Academy of Sciences Panel Evaluating Guns (2001-2004)
  • Economic Journal Lecture, Royal Economic Association Meetings (2003)
  • AEA Program Committee (2000; 2001)
  • Presenter, Review of Economic Studies European Tour (May 1997)