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There are two main schools of thought on this topic:
- First, many people would argue that this is because people with lower social standing are generally poorer and have fewer prospects in life. Because they have been born into a disadvantaged position, they are unable to have the same chances to succeed in legitimate ways that middle and upper class people have. Therefore, they turn to crime.
- An opposite point of view argues that the poor have a "culture of poverty." This view argues that the poor have values and attitudes that make them less likely to succeed at legitimate work. This culture drives them to be more likely to commit crimes.
Other possible reasons, due to the variety of social factors at work in such situations, could include 1) people who live and grow up in poorer surroundings are exposed to crime much more often than those in wealthier neighborhoods. That is, they see more crime and more criminals, become desensitized to it, and are therefore more prone to commit criminal acts themselves, and 2) they are much more likely to be undereducated. Even with a high school diploma, sometimes the possibility of instant income from crime is much more attractive than working in the service industry for minimum wage, and seems to have much more social status attached to it too.
The tendency of a person to commit crime is influenced by may factors. Two important factors among these are the temptation of gains by committing crime, and deterrent by way of fear of punishment. People with lower social standings are generally the people also with lower income and wealth. Therefore for them the temptation of gains from crime are greater. Also because of low income as well as low social standing, such people ave less to loose when caught and punished. As a matter of fact I have personally known unauthorised hawkers in Mumbai (India), who consider overnight lock up in a police station a benefit because of the free meals they get there.
Also crowded living conditions faced by socially and economically disadvantaged people is more conducive to frictions and fights between the people. Such fights can also frequently get escalated to serious criminal acts of violence.
Also, is important to note that only certain type of crimes are more common among people with lower social standing. Crimes of some types such as major financial and political scams and frauds are practically limited to people of high social standing.
There are several reasons why crime is associated with people who have a lower social standing. First of all, people who have an education and a good job are less likely to place their lives in jeopardy to commit a crime. People with a low social standing are often considered to be undereducated.
In addition, people of lower socio-economic status may see crime differently. It may be more socially acceptable, so it is easier to commit crime. Generally, poverty stricken areas are associated with gang activity and crime.
Also, people with a low socio-economic status may commit crime because they need things such as food.
In our general experience, crime is more common among people with lower social standings because of the following reasons:
1) people with lower social standings are economically disadvantaged, and so they can not receive proper/quality education; lack of education may lead to lack of maturity and judgement.
2) poverty is the mother of all evils, and the poorer sections in the society may easily turn to criminal career for their survival.
3) people with lower social standings live in conditions lacking in moral/ethical values, and such people are susceptible to many temptations.
4) The down-trodden being neglected by the society shows a cynical disregard for the social order. Crimes thus become a way of challenging the society.
There are several theories that attempt to explain this question. One side of the argument believes that people of a lower socioeconomic category are at the bottom due to an idea called "Social Darwinism". Charles Darwin was actually a physical scientist, not a social scientist. He was the person who developed the theory that "only the strong survive", or "survival of the fittest", meaning that a species avoids extinction when they adapt to survive in their environment as well as choosing the biggest, strongest mate to sire their offspring. Babies are vulnerable. If the parents are strong, they have a far greater chance of surviving childhood.
Social Darwinism is a variation of this idea. It states that the people who succeed in the world are those who have the social skills necessary to be chosen for the job, promotion, responsibility, etc. Those who lack these skills are unable to move up, not only on the social ladder, but the corporate ladder as well. Because women tend to choose partners at or above their socioeconomic level, the males who lack these qualities remain at the bottom of the social order; therefore, their choices for mates are limited to those women who are equally as incompetent in these areas as he. If they reproduce, their children will be born of inadequate "stock", thus the cycle continues.
What Social Darwinism doesn't account for, however, is an unfair, oppressive power structure. The United States has a long history of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Minority groups have been actively, if not blatantly, discriminated against in every segment of society. To apply Social Darwinism to any minority group in the United States would be heavily biased and incomplete in the analysis of the causes of the phenomenon.
Success in the U.S. is traditionally measured by money and power. Minorities have been prevented from moving up in the world in every area of society, from being refused an education, to being relegated only to certain types of work, to being overlooked for promotion, to being banned from living in certain neighborhoods, going to certain schools, and belonging to certain social clubs.
Without the networking and connections that are developed simply by being able to move up and about in these seemingly benign areas, minorities have fewer "tools in their toolbox" that are available to well connected people. Minorities not only have to overcome discrimination, they have to navigate problems without the benefit of being able to call on the expertise of another person who could help them quickly overcome it.
For example, Little Johnny gets caught drinking at a party. He is arrested, ticketed, and must appear in court. John Sr. belongs to a country club whose membership includes many attorneys. John Sr. asks one of them for advice while they are on the golf course together. The attorney tells John Sr. not to worry, he'll take the case for a small fee, if any. Little Johnny's incident is removed.
Little Johnny from the poor side of town has a father, but he's in prison. His mother works two jobs, and still barely makes it. She has no extra money to hire an attorney, so Little Johnny goes to court. The judge orders him to do 40 hours of community service to pay the fine. Johnny has trouble finding the place and making it there on time because he has no one home to help him or to pay the bus fares to get there, so he misses a few. The judge violates him and he has a new charge added to the first.
I will play the devil's advocate on this one by suggesting that the statement might not be entirely valid. The statement links crime with socio- economic status. This could be debated in a variety of ways. For example, white collar crime is something that is perpetrated by not those of lower economic status. The embezzlement of investor funds by Bernie Madoff as well other crimes that have been perpetrated over the last couple of years has been done by those who sit on the boards of museums and are seen as "pillars of the community." Additionally, I think an argument can be made that Madoff's ponzi scheme was a more elaborate three card monty or con grift perpetrated by the so- called lower social standing individual. Crime seems to be something cut across all economic standings.
Less civilized individuals will be more likely to be both criminal and lacking in social qualities. Of course there are many people of low social standing because they are poor, not because they are less civilized, but those individuals are unlikely to contribute to the criminal element. People's lacking in a degree of civilization may be a result of family culture or a result of broken home, or bastardy.
This is a very controversial question, because till today no statistics are available comparing criminals from the lower strata of society with criminals from the upper strata of society. It is commonly assumed that people from the lower economic groups usually take to crime easily and that most criminals come from the poorer classes of society.
Poverty is only one of the many reasons why people become criminals. So many other causes like dysfunctional families, social circumstances, lack of civic sense, and even genetic factors can result in a person becoming a criminal.
Another common reason cited for a person to become a criminal is lack of education, but then how does one explain white collar crime or medical doctors indulging in unethical practices?
I don't know that crime is more common among people with lower social standings. I have not seen statistics to back this up. I think the majority of criminals caught are of lower social standings, but I would hate to generalize this topic.
One reason more people of lower social standing are caught may be due to a lower criminal sophistication. People of lower socioeconomic standing tend to have less education. This may play into their mistakes that lead to capture. People of lower social standing tend to participate in more visible criminal acts than people of higher social standing. You are more likely to be observed selling drugs on the streets than you are to be embezzling money.
Richer people don't rob cars or liquor stores. They fiddle their income tax and insurance claims. The use lawyers to lie and twist the legal-process to their advantage. They drive drunk but look 'respectable' to low-brow cops who stop the poor, black guy instead. They exaggerate their expenses claims. Middle class crime is invisible. This is white-collar crime or 'victimless crime' as it is erroneously called. Poor people don't have the skills or access to the system to commit victimless crime. Richer, more educated people do know how.
And obviously, the super-rich control the system, so they can create a system that means their actions are legal, even when they are not. If you took all the blue collar crime for the last 1000 years, it would look tiny compared to the banker's reckless exploitation of a legal loop-hole to allow them to operate off-balance sheet actions that were ten times larger than their reported activities... which shmucks like You and Me will be paying back for the next 25 years. But they didn't have to payback all their nice bonuses, did they?
Or how about Union Carbide killing 50,000 people in India and just walking away because they can hire the world's best lawyers to batter any opposition.
The more powerful you are, the more criminal you can be. Bush started an illegal war and 500,000 died, he kidnapped people from around the world and locked them up in a secret base and tortured them. But I don't think the police are going to arrest him anytime soon, they are too busy busting some Puerta Rican guy who stole a half-bottle of JD from the 7/11.
They do not have as much money or standing as those of higher classes and to survive they feel like crime is the best option to gain some food or money by stealing. But then again you can see the richer people doing just as many crimes yet those are hidden from the view of the public because of money.
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