Is poverty the root of all evil? The notion that poverty is connected to crime has been at the forefront of criminology studies that suggested a close, if not an interdependent relationship between the two. Shaw and McKay, through their social structure theory found out that poor people were more likely to commit crimes due to their lack of education. Thus, since disadvantaged people have limited access to sustainable employment opportunities, they would resort to crime as a means of survival and economic advancement. Research into the issue confirms the assumption that disadvantaged/poor youths often engage in risky criminal behavior. Such valid data proves there is a close correlation between crime and an offender’s economic level.
Theorists also suggest that since socioeconomic factors determine settling patterns in urban areas, poverty prone areas such as slums suffer from high crime rates. Through the social disorganization theory, Shaw and McKay found that neighborhoods with poor residents had higher crime rates. They explained that since poor neighborhoods have little or no control structures, delinquent values are adopted with ease by young populations as a culture. In such neighborhoods, since many residents can’t access quality education or employment opportunities for advancement, they choose the ‘get rich or die trying’ lifestyle. Results from The Hamilton Project, ‘Ten Economic Facts about Crime and Incarceration in the United States’ revealed that low-income citizens are most likely to be victims of crime. The study proved that living in poor neighborhoods, where youths have lesser opportunities for advancement, placed citizens at risk of being victims of attack. Thus, it seems that for poor people, you either become a criminal or a victim of criminal behavior.
But a counter to the poverty and crime argument is that rich people also engage in crime. White collar crimes such as embezzlement and financial fraud are also prevalent, despite the offenders being graduates from privileged homes. A worthy rebuttal is that the need to maintain an individual’s prestigious position in the society is equally a high motivation for crime. Since a rich man doesn’t want to be poor, they can definitely engage in crime to secure their high economic status in the society. Thus, in the end, poverty is a cause of crime and everyone, rich or poor, can engage in criminal behavior for advancement.
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