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Crime & Poverty


Crime & Poverty Do overall economic conditions affect crime? Study times of economic depression Look at crime over time, during periods of prosperity and downturns – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Crime & Poverty

Crime Poverty
  • Do overall economic conditions affect crime?
  • Study times of economic depression
  • Look at crime over time, during periods of
    prosperity and downturns
  • Does unemployment affect crime?
  • Does economic inequality affect crime?
  • Compare crime rates in wealthy and poor areas
  • Is inequality more important than income? Are
    poor areas that exist in or near wealthy areas
    particularly affected?
  • Doesnt address individual characteristics

Early studies
  • 1800s France - Guerry
  • Wealthiest regions more property crime, less
    violent crime
  • Opportunities more stuff to steal
  • Lack of education not related to crime
  • More education, more violence
  • 1800s France - Quetelet
  • Men more likely to commit crime
  • Especially poor, unemployed, undereducated
  • Opportunities important
  • Poor areas had less crime
  • Crime more likely to happen in better off areas,
    by poor and unemployed
  • Inequality within richer areas might breed
  • Crime consequence of moral character virtues
    break down if poor

Crime and overall economic conditions
  • More crime during economic slumps
  • Pratt and Lowenkamp During 1976 - 1994,
    homicides were negatively associated with
    economic activity
  • Contraindications
  • Great Depression (1928-1940) Henry and Short
  • General crime rate does not seem to increase
  • Crimes of violence declined
  • Cho - 1970 - Percentage of people below poverty
    level in 49 largest cities not associated with
    seven FBI index crimes
  • During the 1960s, as the economy expanded, crime
    and delinquency increased
  • During the 1990s, as the economy expanded, crime
    and delinquency decreased

Crime and poverty
  • Strong association between poverty and crime
  • Ehrlich - 1940, 50, 60 - association between
    property crime and poor households
  • 1974 - Loftin and Hill - index of structural
  • Infant mortality, education, income, single
    parent families
  • Strongly correlated with State homicide rates
  • 1990 - Lee - concentration of poverty is
  • Stretsky et al - More concentrated the poverty,
    the higher the robbery and homicide rate

Unemployment and delinquency
  • Hypothesis Unemployment ? poverty ?
  • Adult unemployment effect on delinquency
  • Glaser and Rice adult unemployment reduces
    delinquency, maybe because parents are home
  • Weatherburn and Lind delinquency high when adult
    unemployment high
  • Youth unemployment effect on delinquency
  • Several studies report strong positive
    correlation between delinquency and youth
  • Ihlanfeldt -- More than 20 percent of difference
    in property crime between black and white
    neighborhoods caused by lack of job opportunities
    for youth in the latter

Unemployment and adult crime
  • By early 1980s several studies demonstrated that
    unemployment and crime rose and fell together
    (weak relationship)
  • In a 1987 review of 63 studies, Chiricos found a
    significant positive relationship between
    unemployment and crime, especially after 1970
  • More unemployment, more crime
  • Easier to discover in small units (e.g., cities)
    because they are more homogeneous than larger
    units (e.g., States and regions)
  • Disagreeing, Land, McCall and Cohen found the
    opposite for homicides
  • As unemployment increased, homicides decreased!
  • Land, Cantor and Russell found a weak negative
    relationship between unemployment and crime
    between 1960-1980
  • As unemployment increased, crime decreased
  • Agreed that the positive relationship found by
    Chiricos is more likely to be found in smaller
    units of analysis and for property crimes

Unemployment Rate (percent) 1989-2008ages 16
years and overBureau of Labor Statistics
Crime Rates 1989 - 2008Uniform Crime Reports
Types of jobs and crime
  • White 1970 -1990 decline of manufacturing
    jobs ? increased poverty and unemployment ?
    increased robberies, burglaries, drug offenses
  • PoliceIssues link - manufacturing jobs
  • Shihadeh 1970 -1990 decline of low-skill jobs
    ? increased poverty ? increased violence

Problems in Interpreting Research on Economic
Problem 1 Poverty is subjective
  • Relative to locale
  • Differently measured
  • Unemployment is an unexact concept
  • People not actively seeking work are not counted
  • Count the under-employed, poorly paid dead-end
    jobs, bad working conditions
  • How people feel about their jobs is not measured

Problem 2 Economy and crime --Two
contradictory theories, with support for each!
  • Traditional view relationship between economic
    conditions and crime is negative (poverty causes
  • Good economy, low crime bad economy, high crime
  • Oppositional view Positive relationship (crime
    is like any other economic activity)
  • Good economy, high crime bad economy, low crime
  • Ploscowe - 1931 support for positive
  • Increase of economic well-being during 150-year
    period accompanied by increase in crime
  • Good economy ? greater criminal opportunities ?
    more crime
  • Gurr 1977 support for positive and negative
  • Crime actually declined from 1840s-1930s
  • Later increases may be due to better police
  • Different causal process at work in each time
  • 19th. Century - economic activity positively
    related to crime
  • 20th. Century - economic distress had no
    effect, but as total productivity increased, so
    did crime

Problem 3 Economic change has a delayed
(lagged) effect on crime
  • Unemployment takes time to increase crime -
    unemployed dont feel the full brunt of being out
    of work until other sources of support are
  • Perhaps there is no corresponding lag time for
    increased opportunities to commit crime -
    economic improvement immediately increases
    criminal opportunities
  • Cantor and Lang - 1946-1982 - US unemployment
    rates and crime index
  • Immediate opportunity effect and lagged
    motivation effect. As unemployment increased
  • Robbery, burglary and theft immediately decreased
    but then increased the next year
  • Homicide and auto theft decreased, did not
    increase the next year
  • No effect on rape and assault

Problem 4 Determining the size of the unit that
economic factors affect
  • Local conditions are very important
  • In economically stagnant inner cities, there may
    be declining amount of legal work and increasing
    amount of illegal work (e.g., dealing drugs)
  • Early involvement in crime and incarceration may
    limit later opportunities
  • Alienation and diminished expectations
  • Low-paying work is stigmatized
  • Violence substitutes for normal social controls
  • Once socialized into illegal activities, people
    may continue them

Problem 5 Determining which factors cause crime
(problem of multicollinearity)
  • High crime areas have many factors that might
    cause crime
  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
  • Single-parent households
  • High density
  • Poor schools
  • Study by Land - the most important determinants
    of homicide were clustered in a single factor
    resource deprivation/affluence
  • This factor includes measures for...
  • poverty income inequality
  • percent African-American
  • Percent children not living with both parents

Problem 6 Distinguishing between poverty and
economic inequality
  • Poverty below a fixed level of income or
    material goods
  • Inequality relative deprivation
  • Consistent findings
  • Economic inequality associated with homicide
  • Economic inequality associated with violent crime
  • Firearms violence strongly correlated with
    inequality after controlling for poverty and
    access to firearms
  • Is it a specific kind of inequality (e.g.,
  • Messner and Golden - 1992 - increased inequality
    between blacks and whites associated with
  • Other studies report mixed results

Poverty and economic inequality --Conclusions
  • Overall inequality (gap between rich and poor) is
    associated with violent crime
  • Key factor may not be how many poor, but how many
  • When there are only poor people around, crime may
    be lower
  • Economics may have most direct affect on crime
    within the urban underclass - pockets of
    extreme poverty
  • Strong association between poverty and violence
  • Direct effect of poverty on crime is mediated by
    many other variables
  • High-crime communities have a host of factors -
    poverty, unemployment, single-parent households,
    poor schools
  • These factors may be more proximate causes of
    crime e.g.Poverty ? poor schools ?
    unemployment ? broken homes ? crime