Social Class, Unemployment and their Relationship With Crime

Crime is basically a human phenomenon. Every human being is bound to commit crime at any one point. There is a popular perception though that the poor people and the unemployed are bound to commit crimes more than the rich.

Before we get to the issue of social class, we need to understand what social class is. When talking about the matters of social class, we can hear terms such as lower class, middle class and upper class. Terms such as underclass and working class also come in. all these terms differentiate the social groupings in relation to their social, economic, cultural, and political and also lifestyle resources. Attempt to understand the social class can briefly fall under some two groups. These include the Weberian model and the Marxian model(Marshall,1950). The Marxian model is concerned with the identification of individuals within well know groups in relation to their m means of product. These include those who earn through wages and also those who earn through ownership of productive wealth. The Weberian perspective views class as a matter of the relative income levels(Marshall, 1950).

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As per the statistics carried out, social class can have some impact on the criminal activities. The poor people are more likely to commit street crime more than the wealthy. Some scholars however attribute the great arrests made on the poor people as bias over the social class. Putting aside this possibility, most criminologists agree that criminal offending differs with the social class differences and view this as being “unmistakable”(Braithwaite, 1981).

One sociologist has even gone ahead to note that people are aware of the parts of town not to stroll once darkness had set in. they do not even risk to park there. These areas of the city that frighten these people are normally not the parts where people who have high income reside. Social class thus seems to be associated with crime where the poor people in the society participate more in crime.

The explanation on this relationship is majorly centered on the impacts of poverty. Poverty is said to be associated with frustrations, anger, economic needs and also the need to be handled with respect. Poor parenting skills of the poor coupled with other criminal activities put make the kids more likely to develop antisocial behaviors for the better part of their lives. All these effects together make the poor people prone to committing more street crimes(White,& Cunneen, 2006).These problems that they face make people have the perception that they can commit these crime which in some cases might not be entirely true.

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Research carried out on the relationship that exists between social class and crime, it was discovered that although criminal activities especially street crime mostly are related to the poor, the rich in the society are most likely to commit white-collar types of crime. This type of crime can end up being harmful, much more than street crime. When comparison is done on both the poor and the street crimes and the white collar crime, then the social class crime-relationship does not appear (White, & Cunneen, 2006).  This is so because the poor have high rates of the former type of crime and the rich have high rates of the latter type of crime.

The general area of concern or basically the rationale of this study will be to determine whether there is a relationship that exists between social class, unemployment and crime. If there is a relationship, several researches done will be looked at one by one so as to determine the validity of this statement. People’s perception on the same will also be analyzed.

Despite the fact that the relationship between social class and criminality remains very unclear, it has not prevented a number of theoretical explanations mostly which have the perception that poor people are the ones who commit crime at a higher rate than the rich.

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In the existing researched undertaken, there are suggestions that high street crime that is existent among the poor can be attributed to personal morality and family failings. There has been arguments that crime is as a result of moral poverty. It is claimed that crime rates rise when the parents fail to enable their kids understand the difference between right and wrong to their kids(White, & Cunneen, 2006). They thus commit these crimes without understanding that it is wrong to do so. When the focus is set on the street crimes, the researchers argue that there is concern on the moral poverty of the poor people other than the moral poverty from families producing political criminals and production of corporates.

The researchers also suggest that discrimination is what places the poor on the position they are in. If there was no discrimination in the judicial system, they we would come to realize that the poor are more or less equal to the affluent. An explanation to this is that the criminals are shown up in the statistics as being very poor because the judicial system has put more focus on the control of the poor communities. The practice also puts the residents of that area at the risk of being labelled with such types of crime(Braithwaite, 1981). An example is the cases where a college student might be found with drug offence and ends up serving a shorter term than those from the neighboring poor communities. This is mostly because they are not the targets of “war” on drugs, which is basically war on the poor people.

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The scholars were further able to analyze that the poor people also suffer from the high rates of crime just the same way they suffer from other problems that face them such as ailments, drug abuse, stress and so much more. This is majorly because of the emotional and physical pressures of inequality and poverty.

All these are as a result of the material desires that the poor have coupled with the access of the legitimate ways of fulfilling these. As one of the researchers stated, the desires of all the “good things” in life are equally distributed among all the social classes, it is unfortunate that the poor have limited access to resources to enable them fulfil these desires. This leads to some of them resolving this type of pressure by resorting to committing criminal activities so as to fulfil their desires (Braithwaite, 1981).

According to the above discussion, the debate as to whether social class is a determinant to criminality is still ongoing. It is however clear that social class contributes in shaping the type of the types of crimes that an individual commits.

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Unemployment on the other hand is viewed as a criminal factor. This is because the said person is normally marked by deterioration or poor living standards. They are assumed to have unstable emotional structure. The family too might get affected and the person might fail to control their desires(Tarling, 1982). This might influence them to go ahead and commit crimes.

While the politicians have put a lot of focus on crime-fighting, the following study shows clearly that the labor market should not at any one time be overlooked. The public officials can go ahead and pass really tough laws, increase the number of the cops on the beat and also take more additional steps to aid in crime reduction. There are however limits of how much of these that we can undertake.

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A bad labor market has very adverse impacts on crime rates. Research carried out by the federal statistics between 1979- 1997 indicated that inflation led to the wages of the people who did not have a collage education to fall by 20%. Despite having the declines in 1993, the violent and property crime rates increased by 35 and 21 percent respectively during that period of time(Rupprecht, 1977). In the then research, there was a relationship that evidently existed between the drop in the wages and the criminal activities such as burglary.

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This study was also able to find a relationship that existed between some violent crimes and wages – such as robbery and assault. In this case, money is always a motive. Some criminal activities however do not have any money motive or might be less related to money. These include some such as rape and murder. These two have minimal connection with unemployment and wages. This is a clear indication that most criminal activities are motivated by the poor economic conditions that may be in existence for a particular period of time(Rupprecht, 1977).

The theory that exists between falling wages and crime is quite simple. According to the previous research, the moment wages decline, there is an increase in the relative payoffs of the criminal activities. According to this, it may seem obvious that a shift in the economic conditions have an impact on crime. Very few studies have been done on this issue.

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According previous researches, the national crime rates rose between the years of 1979-1992 when then there was a decrease in the wages for the less skilled personnel. Crime rates however declined between 1993 &1997. This can be attributed to the slight increase that was made on the wages of the less skilled workers and also the levelling off of the wages(Tarling, 1982).

Weinberg during his research was able to carry out several analyses that would aid in studying the relationship between the unemployment, wages and crime between 1779 &1997. This was to be done on the men and women with no college education. In one of the analyses, they were able to examine the crime rates in seven hundred and five (705) counties all across the country. All these counties had a population that was greater than 25,000. A comparison was made to the state wages.

The second type of analysis was carried out on statistics of the 198 metropolitan areas. This is as per the definition given by the U.S Census. The researchers put into consideration factors such as number of police and also the arrest rates that might have influenced the crime rates.

In the first analysis, the researchers came up with a conclusion that with 20% fall in the wages of the people who didn’t have college education, it can account for 10.8% rise in the property crime and also 21.6% rise in violent crime(Tarling, 1982). This thus is a clear indication that decline in wages is mostly responsible for the increase in both the violent and property crime.

According to this research, wages had more influence on crime than unemployment rates. This is so because unemployment is viewed as being cyclical and does not have any long-term trend. The wages on the other hand fell in a steady manner during the better part of the period when the research was being done (Rupprecht, 1977). It is clear that the trend in wages brought about a clear factor of crime all through this period.

A third and final analysis was carried out, the researchers were able to examine data from National Longitudinal Survey of Youth which was carried out in 1979. This was so as to assess whether the economic conditions experienced in the areas occupied by the participants of the survey could be linked to their criminal behavior. The survey inquired from the participants whether they had participated in some forms of crime such as robbery, shoplifting and much more during the previous year.

Just as expected, the economic conditions in the area had no influence on the criminal practices for the highly educated residents of the area. This was not the case for the less educated. It was more likely that the lower wages and high unemployment rates among the less educated made them prone to committing crimes(Tarling, 1982). This remained to be use even after factors such as family background and cognitive ability were taken into account.

From the research that was undertaken, it was clear that the low skilled workers were more prone to the changes that might occur in the labor opportunities. This situation remains constant even after the factors such as wealth of family and personal characteristics are controlled.

From the above discussion, it is evident that social class and unemployment has a lot of impact on crime and criminal activities. People’s perception about this is also quite true but a deeper look at this will give more information that might not even been in the thought of most people. Most researchers and scholars have their own view of this. All this coupled together gives a better standing of the same. This topic has been having contradicting arguments over time and thus a research on this will be worthwhile in helping people understand the logic behind it.

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