Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Poverty Breeds Crime

I wonder if there is strong correlation between poverty and crime. Or is it just that they just coincidentally coincide? I think not. I have firm convictions that crime has strong ties to poverty. The places that have the most poverty also have the highest crime rates. There is only one really good reason for this. When a person becomes despondent and the economic and social burdens of society become too much to bear you resort to one thing...crime!

Let me provide several possible scenarios:

Scenario number 1 -A younger male from an impoverished neighborhood has three children to feed and clothe. His wife cannot work because she is handicapped. He also has light bills and a mortgage to pay. He gets layed off from his job. He cannot find a job anywhere and public assistance does not suffice. They cut off his light and heat in the middle of winter. He is unable to carry out tasks such as laundry and buy food due to the financial deficiency. His last thought would be to rob because it is against his morals but he pensates it until he finally commits himself to robbing a convenient store. He commits the crime and gets jail time. He does his time in prison and is released. He still cannot find a job because of the negative stigma surrounding the word ex-con indicated on every job application he fills out. He begins to think about robbing again because he every job he applies for turns him down. Poverty breeds crime... and crime breeds more crime! It is a never ending cycle!

Scenario number 2- An older man in his 60s was a war veteran from Vietnam. He becomes homeless because the government didn't give him any housing when he got back from Vietnam and he has no family besides his estranged wife. He has no job and goes to various shelters in order to get a hot meal and a place to sleep.He has no healthcare and has to pay child support. On top of that he is a recovering drug addict. He is struggling with his drug addiction while trying to find the money for a dyre cancer surgery he needs. The pressure and stress is too much so he goes insane and he starts to hold people up and pickpocket people on the street and in the subway. A cop in the train spots him pick pocketing and he is cuffed and sent to jail.

Scenario number 3- A male teenager comes from a single mom household and the mom is barely making ends meet. He has disciplinary problems in school. As a result he starts having academic problems. They expel him because he is failing and because of his misbehavior. He needs to help out with the bills at home. So he deals drugs in order to bring in a steady income. He gets caught and gets prison time. (This is a big problem with the incarcerated male youth in today's prisons. They have nobody to guide them, teach them how to be a man, and be a good role model and so they commit crimes)

These are seperate scenarios where the the circumstances of these people's situations coerced them to partake in illegal activities. They did not want to commit these illicit acts yet had to do so in order to survive.

In an ideal society this would not happen because the economic resources would be evenly distributed. Or there would be more jobs available for people how desperately need them. I know what you are thinking....socialism. NO!!!!!!! I am talking about capitalism in moderation. Extreme capitalism, greed, egoism, and the fact that we are an independent society which focuses on the individual rather than the collective group don't help poverty neither. Until we create a financial system that that tries to distribute wealth more evenly, create better social programs, and jobs the status quo will remain inert. If change does not come about poverty will soar and crime will flourish! The cycle will perpetuate itself. Hopefully this new administration can revolutonize the way our finance in society functions


  1. I definitely agree that poverty breeds crime and I would like to add more to the topic of crime itself and our society. As I see it, poverty is definitely, in my mind, the number one reason for why most crime occurs, specifically in the case of robbery, theft, or simply stealing money or valuables from someone else. If we want to talk about the issue of organized crime, there are definitely ways to link some of the origins from poverty itself, especially if one attempts to analyze movies such as Scarface, The Godfather, and even American Gangster, which is based on a true story.
    Unfortunately poverty isn't the only issue when we are dealing with crime and personally it is a sad thing to say so because if it was just poverty by itself, then the proposed ideas in order to tackle it I say should be taken very seriously and should be first priority amongst our government and top officials if they wish to drop crime rates significantly.
    But unfortunately again, poverty is just one reason. If we think about individuals, if we think about what our society values, then we end up with even more complex reasons (which include poverty because it is so complex and doesn't have simple solutions or so as some would like to think) to say this is why crime exists.
    In the case of poverty however, everything that has been said in this blog I SAY is 100% true and on point to the letter. There is no question in my mind that if a person feels desperation, if a person feels that all hope is lost because doing things the legal way has not worked, if a person feels helpless and backed up into a corner because of feeling the idea of "poverty" creeping up to get them, then with what these people feel as they say "desperate times call for desperate measures". Our society is not that of a collective group nor a communal one. We are a society made up of individuals, but unfortunately individuals who can have a tendency to think only about the individual and I will say that is not completely the fault of the person him/herself. A society is made of people and people create societies. What is valued can be changed if enough people who know can change it feel the need to do so. Just as there is so much focus on dropping crime rates and eliminating crime, we can also try and prevent the reasons (including facing the issue of poverty) that lead to crime being done in the first place. The choice has to be made from those who are aware of a choice and are aware they have the power to do so.

  2. I agree that in order to produce change, we must come together as a whole...but doesn't change begin at the individual level? And before any of us try to help a situation, we must first begin with our own. Certainly poverty breeds crime, but the issue with crime is that it is not a one way street. As Jennifer said, it is much more complex. Crime will not be lowered unless we address all the other variables that come into play, along with poverty, and look at these variables together as the bigger picture. Once we are able to do that, then we can effectively tackle crime rates.

    Alex, I find it interesting that in ALL of your examples, the perpetrator is a male. This brings me to my next point. One of the variables that I think also affects crime rate is the expectations society has of certain groups of people. If men of lower Socioeconomic status are expected to commit crimes, then the more likely they are to do so. This is because society will treat them in ways that will elicit this type of behavior, and so, society is helping to perpetuate this stereotype. The phenomena of "self-fulfilling prophecy" is at work here. I think that if society stopped perpetuating the stereotype that males in low SES will commit crimes, then perhaps crime rates may be influenced in a positive way. Granted, statistics do show that individuals of low SES are more likely to commit crimes or actually do commit crimes (i am unsure which is correct), BUT, what society needs to understand is that this statistic is not describing a causal relationship. It is not meant to say that one who is of low SES, will commit a crime because of their status...rather, it is merely describing an association; a correlation. And that, is what we need to understand FIRST, if we ever wish to lower crime rates.

  3. I think that this is a very interesting discussion as to whether or not poverty breeds crime... I agree with curious george in that this relationship is not necessarily causal but rather an association. As suggested by the previous two comments, there are so many other variables to be taken into consideration when examining the relationship, in that one should be asking what factors perpetuate poverty and what factors shape crime and then how are the two intertwined. I think one of the main factors as Alex mentioned in one of his earlier posts was that of the education system. The education system must address the needs of under privileged kids within the society providing them with an alternative to just "dropping out" or completing high school without an option of higher education. Addressing this at least helps to provide an option for those who may have grown up in poverty to move up the social ladder and at least help to reduce the chances of turning to illegal activities in order to "survive".

    Another factor that also needs to be addressed is that of family values. We need to go back to the traditional form of family life where a community raises a child. I think that this is at the heart of what we have all agreed upon in that there needs to be a more communal society. I will go further to say that even though this is a valid suggestion as to the solution, I think that this in itself presents a problem in that we are asking society to change values....Values are deeply engrained beliefs toward someone or something and are usually shaped by thoughts, concepts and actions that are taught over a lifetime. How do we change this, unless we start from childhood????? I think that these are some of the issues that needs to be explored when we consider the relationship between poverty and crime and how one breeds the other..........