Social class and crime relationship

SAGE Reference - Social Class and Crime

social class and crime relationship

There are several notable aspects of the relationship between social class and crime: (a) how social class shapes the definition of crime, (b) how social class. The contradictory perceptions about the relationship between social class and criminality are, in part, the product of disparate research findings. The relationship between social class and crime has been a long-standing source of debate in criminology. Specifically, there is considerable disagreement as.

Merton saw crime as a response to the inability of people to achieve material wealth, emphasising the role of material or economic factors. Status Frustration and Working Class Subcultures Albert Cohen put more emphasis on cultural factors values and status rather than material factors in explaining working class crime.

Cohen argued that working class boys strove to emulate middle-class values and aspirations, but lacked the means to achieve success. This led to status frustration: Because there were several boys going through the same experiences, they end up banding together and forming delinquent subcultures. This delinquent subculture reversed the norms and values of mainstream culture, offering positive rewards status to those who were the most deviant.

Status was gained by being malicious, intimidating others, breaking school rules or the law and generally causing trouble. This pattern of boys rejecting mainstream values and forming delinquent subcultures first started in school and then becomes more serious later on, taking on the form of truancy and possibly gangs. The first stage is the decision by the police to stop and interrogate an individual. Whether or not the police stop and interrogate an individual depends on where the behaviour is taking place and on how the police perceive the individual s.

The Second Stage is that the young person is handed over to a juvenile delinquent officer. Factors associated with a typical delinquent include being of dishevelled appearance, having poor posture, speaking in slang etc. It follows that Cicourel found that most delinquents come from working class backgrounds. Also, their parents are more able to present themselves as respectable and reasonable people from a nice neighbourhood and co-operate fully with the juvenile officers, assuring them that their child is truly remorseful.

As a result, the middle class delinquent is more likely to be defined as ill rather than criminal, as having accidentally strayed from the path of righteousness just the once and having a real chance of reforming. Cicourel based his research on two Californian cities, each with a population of about Cicourel argued that this difference can only be accounted for by the size, organisation, policies and practices of the juvenile and police bureaus.

essay on social class and crime

It is the societal reaction that affects the rate of delinquency. It is the agencies of social control that produce delinquents. Marxism, Social Class and Crime Marxists argue that while working class crime does exist, it is a rational response to crimogenic capitalism. Moreover, all class commit crime, and the crimes of the elite are more harmful than street crime, but less likely to be punished. Crimogenic Capitalism Capitalism encourages individuals to pursue self-interest before everything else.

Capitalism encourages individuals to be materialistic consumers, making us aspire to an unrealistic and often unattainable lifestyle. Capitalism in its wake generates massive inequality and poverty, conditions which are correlated with higher crime rates. This measure of crime simply did not take into account the reality that many crimes go unnoticed or unreported, or for some other reason simply do not become known to those who wish to count them.

This unknown and uncounted crime is referred to as the dark figure of crime. The problem, as they saw it, was that there was no way to determine whether accurately measuring the dark figure of crime would or would not show crime to be more broadly distributed. The development of self-report data in the s intensified the ongoing debate.

Researchers administered surveys to individuals randomly selected from the population and asked them to report their criminal behaviors.

Middle-Class Crime and Criminality - Criminology - Oxford Bibliographies

Although many of the earliest of these studies did not support the belief that lower social classes were more criminal, there was also enough research that found contradictory results to ensure that the issue would not be resolved. Furthermore, there were as many sociologists and criminologists who attacked the validity of self-report data as there were those who took issue with the validity of official measures of crime.

Their argument was that there is no way to determine whether people in self-report studies are telling the truth about their criminal behavior. They also speculated that people from the lower classes were underreporting their deviant and criminal behavior while those in the upper classes were overreporting, thereby artificially reducing the magnitude of the correlation between lower-class status and criminality.

social class and crime relationship

Tittle, Villemez, and Smith reviewed 35 research studies that had examined the social class—crime link and concluded that there was an extremely small relationship, with the members of the lower classes exhibiting slightly more criminality. They also noted that this relationship had become smaller over the past four decades. This research, however, by no means settled the debate. Instead, the research became the impetus for even more extensive and complicated empirical efforts.

Much of these later efforts attempted to discover the conditions under which social class influences criminality.

Social Class & Crime

One set of studies attempted to determine whether the manner in which social class and crime were measured affects the likelihood of discovering a link between social class and crime. In terms of social class, several studies suggested that this relationship may exist only among people in the lowest economic strata, the group sometimes referred to as the underclass.

These studies then measured social class by dividing populations into dichotomous categories such as welfare recipients and nonrecipients or, for school-age children, those who receive free lunches and those who do not. Other studies used a composite measure of social class, which often included education, occupation, and income. The emphasis on control helped to distinguish between wage workers who have managerial positions and those who do not, an increasingly prevalent distinction in modern society.

Social Class and Crime

Crime was also measured in a number of different ways in an effort to determine whether it conditions the social class—criminality relationship. For example, a number of studies have examined whether the negative relationship between social class and delinquency existed only for the most serious criminal offenses or the most frequent offenders. Also, the source of crime data was thought to have an effect on whether a relationship between social class and crime was uncovered.

Some criminologists held that crime would be shown to be more prevalent among the lower class if official police data or court records are used to determine criminality.

As previously mentioned, they argued that people from lower classes are more likely to underreport their criminal behavior on self-report surveys. The author compares suburbanites from professional families with lower-middle-class nonprofessionals. The myth of social class and criminality reconsidered.

social class and crime relationship

American Sociological Review He notes how types of offense matter. He further argues that self-reported data miss the serious violence that is recorded in official arrests and recalculates official data to show that social class matters in terms of types of offending.

This makes sense given that we know that there is more street violence and higher rates of crime in impoverished inner cities than in affluent suburban communities. The saints and the roughnecks. The middle-class offenders are referred to as the saints, while the lower-class ones are referred to as the roughnecks.

Both groups engage in an equal amount of offending. However, the saints are less likely to be arrested. The roughnecks engage in more fights and are arrested more frequently for their own protection.

The myth of social class and crime revisited: An examination of class and adult criminality. The extension is in terms of adult offending. The study is based on a sample of adults in a large city in the American Midwest. The authors find that no matter how class or crime is measured it generally has no direct influence on adult criminality. However, social class was related to the criminal involvement of nonwhites. Social class and delinquent behavior in a national youth panel: They report earlier self-report measures and discuss their implications.

Class differences are found in the prevalence and incidence of serious offenses.

social class and crime relationship

They find that the incidence of serious delinquency is more highly correlated with class than the prevalence. The class structure of gender and delinquency: Toward a power-control theory of common delinquent behavior. American Journal of Sociology This article presents a class structured theory of delinquency that attempts to explain gender disparities.

social class and crime relationship

It is unique in predicting higher rates of delinquency among those higher in social class, as measured by neo-Marxian categories of power. It is significant for not only the use of survey data to test a control theory of offending, but also its statements about social class.

Middle-class youth were just as likely to offend as lower-class youth. But Hirschi did report that the educational attachments of the adolescent are related to adolescent offending.

social class and crime relationship

Jensen, Gary, and Kevin Thompson.