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Is poverty the cause of crime?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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We cannot know for sure what causes people to commit crimes.  It seems likely that poverty is a cause of crime, but it seems wrong to say that poverty is “the” cause of crime.

Different people believe that there are different causes of crime.  For example, biosocial theorists of crime believe that people are influenced to commit crimes by biological factors.  These can be such factors as the genes they inherit or they can be “environmental” factors such as poor nutrition.  To these theorists, crime is caused in part by physical/biological factors that interact with social factors. 

Other criminologists believe that it is not poverty per se that causes crime.  Instead, they believe that it is a “culture of poverty” that is to blame.  People who are poor, they say, often have cultures that lead them to value bad behaviors. 

However, there are scholars who would agree that poverty is the cause of crime.  Some would say that poverty causes crime by creating a situation where the poor are forced into crime.  In this view, the poor cannot find legal ways to make a living.  Naturally, then, they turn to crime.  Others would say that poverty frustrates the poor.  It makes them feel that the game is rigged against them.  This causes them to want to strike out against society.  Crime is one way in which they do this.

It seems likely that some combination of all of these factors is responsible for crime.  I would argue that poverty is part of the cause of crime, but it is not the entire cause of crime.

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michuraisin | Student

It's kind of debatable whether poverty is the cause of crime. I feel it would be reasonable to think so because someone who doesn't have a lot of money may need to steal, and someone without a home may be charged with trespassing. Being in poverty means not having a lot, so this makes people desperate and more likely to do things that are against the law to get what they want. The correlation between poverty and crime in America suggests this idea.

However, this correlation tends to happen in concentrations of poverty. For instance, someone who is middle class is not more likely to commit a crime if they are out of a job, but a poor person is much more likely to commit a crime if they are in an impoverished neighborhood. This leads people to believe that it's not poverty that leads to crime, but an environment of poverty instead. Living somewhere with a lot of poor people leads to this feeling of hopelessness or fear, and that increases the chance of committing an act of crime. 

slander | Student

I don't believe so. However i cant generalize my opinion on every single case of poverty, worldwide!

Some people sees poverty as a powerful thing to motivate them into being better and to work hard for things, to earn everything they will ever lay their hands on. Nevertheless, there are so many people out there who got corrupted over the fact that they are poor.

A really major thing to consider before analyzing this is, the degree of poverty.

some people might be poor enough not to get a proper education, while some are poor enough not to get food and shelter.

 We judge easily, we differentiate, and we categorize people based on their social and economic ranking.

question is; Why don't we help?

taking actions instead of leaving a railway of  pointless ideas behind.

what's the point of suggesting without being practical about our approach of this matter.

Thank you very much for the great question.