Washington People: Andrew Jordan

Where economics meets criminal justice

For most people, the word economics brings to mind dollar signs, or perhaps resource allocation more broadly. According to Andrew Jordan, assistant professor of economics in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, economics is actually all about decision making, and the choices may have nothing to do with money. For example, Jordan uses economics to study decision making in the potentially life-altering context of the criminal justice system.

“It’s often easier to understand the decisions people make in environments that have prices because prices give us a clear signal of what you have to give up to get something else. It’s a universal metric that we’ve agreed on,” Jordan explained. “When you go into these really important settings like criminal justice, where big decisions are being made but there are not prices, we can still use tools developed to study markets to understand those decisions.”

Before joining the Washington University faculty in 2021 as part of the first group of hires in Dean Feng Sheng Hu’s Digital Transformation Initiative, Jordan worked on research related to criminal justice in the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago, where he also discovered his affinity for data analysis.

By combining data analysis with models based in economic theory, Jordan can observe patterns in criminal cases to gain insights into prosecutorial decision making.

Read more about Jordan and his work in the Ampersand.

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