Emily Owens, Ph.D.

Emily Owens, Ph.D.

Deans’ Professor of Criminology and Economics at the University of California, Irvine

NPI Affiliated Scholars Program


Dr. Emily Owens is the Deans’ Professor of Criminology and Economics at the University of California, Irvine, and the Department Chair of Criminology, Law and Society. Dr. Owens is currently a member of the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine standing committee on law and justice, and she has been a member of ad-hoc committees producing three consensus reports on policing and illegal markets for the National Academies. She is a faculty affiliate of J-PAL North America and the California Policy Lab.

Dr. Owens currently serves in advisory roles with government and non-governmental organizations shaping how crime and criminal justice, especially policing, is measured in the United States, including the California Office of the Attorney General’s Racial and Identity Profiling Act Board, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, and the University of Chicago Crime Lab’s Police Leadership Academy.

Her academic work on policing has been published in leading journals in economics, public policy, and criminology. It includes causal analysis in non-experimental settings, including multiple papers on the USDOJ COPS hiring programs, as well as field experiments evaluating police training and descriptive papers that use economic theory to define and quantify “socially optimal” policing strategies.

As a strong proponent of evidence-based criminal justice practice, Dr. Owens has entered into research partnerships with the Seattle Police Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Anaheim Police Department, the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, the Shasta County Superior Court, the Orange County Superior Court, and the San Francisco Office of the Public Defender.

Dr. Owens earned her PhD in Economics at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2007.


Golestani, A., Owens, E., & Raissian, K. (2024). Specialization in criminal courts: Decision making, recidivism and re-victimization in domestic violence courts in Tennessee. Journal of Human Resources. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.3368/jhr.0322-12223R3

Chen, M.K., Christensen, K., John, E., Owens, E., & Zhuo, Y. (Forthcoming). Smartphone data reveal neighborhood-level racial disparities in police presence. Review of Economics and Statistics.

Owens, E., & Sloan, C. (2023). Can text messages reduce incarceration in rural and vulnerable populations? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 42(4), 992–1009.

Eren, O., & Owens, E. (2024, May 16). Economic booms and recidivism. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 40, 343-372. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-023-09571-2

Owens, E., & Ba, B. (2021). The economics of policing and public safety. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 35(4), 3–28. https://doi.org/10.1257/jep.35.4.3

Agan, A., Freedman, M., & Owens, E. (2021). Is your lawyer a lemon? Incentives and selection in the public provision of criminal defense. Review of Economics and Statistics, 103(2), 294–309. https://doi.org/10.1162/rest_a_00891

Owens, E. (2019). Policy essay: An economic approach to “de-policing.” Criminology and Public Policy, 18(1), 77–80. https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-9133.12413

Freedman, M., Owens, E., & Bohn, S. (2018). Immigration, employment opportunities, and criminal behavior. American Economic Journal – Economic Policy, 10(2), 117–151.

Owens, E., Weisburd, D., Alpert, G., & Amendola, K. (2018). Can you build a better cop? Experimental evidence on supervisory strategies and policing in the community. Criminology and Public Policy, 17(1), 41–87.

Owens, E. (2017). Testing the school-to-prison pipeline. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 36(1), 11–37.

Areas of Focus

  • Evidence-based criminal justice practice
  • Policing and illegal markets