nequality, Crime and Public Policy

According to many studies, crime rises when there is tension or a disconnect between society’s achievement goals—amassing material wealth—and the options that exist to achieve those goals in a legal manner, as by working a well-paying job. Anomie is the term used to describe the disparity between the goals and capacities to achieve them. This indicates that compared to persons at the top of the class structure, crime rates are higher for those at the bottom of the class structure. Most of the people at the bottom class structure who have low socioeconomic status strive to emulate the middle-class aspirations as well as values, but they don’t have the means to achieve the success. This leads to status frustrations or a sense of personal inadequacy and failure which makes them to engage in crimes to attain the desired life. This group of people tries to resolve the frustrations through rejecting the socially acceptable values as well as patterns of acceptable behaviors.
Additionally, research has indicated that the super wealthy people within the society segregate themselves from the poor by living in exclusive gated communities as well as traveling in armored vehicles and private jets. However, this is not the case for the poor people who always aspire to have such a life but lacks the means of attaining it. This paper aims at explaining the idea that more crimes are disproportionately committed by the people within the low-class structure who have very low socioeconomic status except for environmental, corporate as well as white collar crimes. The paper will make use of the Social Structure and Anomie Theory.

Robert Merton developed the Social Structure and Anomie Theory with aims of explaining deviance. According to Merton, the deviant behavior comes as a result of various conditions within the social structure. In most cases, societies develop a strain between the culturally prescribed goals and objects and the socially accepted ways of attaining them. The prescribed goals refer to the values in society while the socially structured ways are the norms within the society. The theory explains five different modes of adaptation within an anomic society: the first one is conformity which occurs when society members accept both the goals as well as the means of the community. Innovation happens when people recognize the goals but rejects the ways of attaining them (Clinard, Quinney & Wildeman, 2014). Ritualism occurs when people refuse the goals but agrees with the ways of achieving them. Retreatism happens when people reject both the goals and the means of attaining them. Lastly rebellion occurs when people fail to recognize the goals as well as the methods of achieving them thus desiring to change the social structure.
According to the theory, deviance occurs as a result of imbalances when it comes to the goals as well as the ways of attaining them. This is so because the society fails to provide equal opportunities to every member to attain the goals. For instance, the people within the low class lack the same opportunity as those in the high class to achieve the social goals and objectives. This explains why the rates of crimes are high within the low-class people as compared to the people in the high-class structures (White & Cunneen, 2015). Additionally, the theory indicates that anomie comes as a result of much emphasis on the societal goals and no adequate means of achieving the goals. Moreover, the society puts more emphasis on financial success not knowing that not everyone can be financially successful. This creates a gap which explains why some people become deviant.
Despite the fact that crime is committed by people from all walks of life, some individuals are more likely than others to break the law due to differences in the social background. For instance, most of the males from the low socioeconomic status commit more crimes than their counterparts from the high socioeconomic status. According to research conducted by the University of California, Riverside (UCR), men from the low socioeconomic status comprise of about 81 percent of arrest for violent with 63 percent representing poverty crimes. The primary explanation for this is that poverty leads to anger, frustrations as well as different economic needs which make the poor more likely to commit crimes. Additionally, poor parenting skills make the children from low socioeconomic status to engage in crimes more often as compared to those within the high economic status who enjoys good parenting (Clinard & Yeager, 2011). Despite the fact that the poor are more likely to commit crimes, the wealthy are also much more likely to commit white-collar crimes which are even more harmful than the street crimes
The low-income communities have a high percentage of male adults in jail due to crimes. This means that there are few fathers as well as mentors for the young generation to look up to. The lack of a stable father figure within the community means that most of the young men from the low-income communities will engage in crimes ending up in jails just like their fathers. This has been proven by statistics from the United States of America which indicates that lower-class youths engage in crimes four times than the wealthy middle-class youths (Holzer et al., 2008). Additionally, the statistics have indicated that 53 percent of the male population in American Jails earned less than $10,000 annually before incarceration.
When it comes to the rate of arrest among the poor males, it comes out clear that most of the poorest families have at least one male member of their family in prison. The high rates at which poor men are incarcerated leads to the disruption of the families as well as the neighborhoods. For instance in the United States, most of the children whose fathers lack a high school diploma, there are high chances that the father will be imprisoned before the child reaches the age of fourteen (Clinard, Quinney & Wildeman, 2014). This means that the chance of success for such a child will be limited, and the child will end up committing crimes to meet the basic needs.
The theory applies to the relationship between poverty and rates of crimes in many ways. To start with the theory indicates that failure to achieve the societal goals leads to a deviant in people’s behavior. Failure to achieve the set goals and objectives due to lack of effective means leads to an increase in poverty levels. This poverty has significant as well as direct effects on the likelihood of people to engage in violence. Most of the young people living in a family where the parents are unemployed, as well as those growing up in areas with high levels of deprivation, are more likely to engage in violence and crimes (White & Cunneen, 2015).Additionally, most of the young people living in poor households are at high risks of committing crimes beyond what is expected of them. Moreover, violence in such areas offers a touchstone against which identities are honed. Research has also indicated that violence in such areas empowers while acting as a means of achieving and sustaining the status amongst peers. This means that the willingness to commit crimes and use violence becomes a resource for the dispossessed which later becomes a persistent feature throughout the teenage years.
The theory also applies to the facts of crime as it demonstrates that the frustration resulting from the inaccessibility of the effective cultural means of achieving economic values leads to high rates of crimes within the low socio-economic areas. Additionally, the theory maintains that inadequate socialization which is also a major cause of crime in these areas results in innovation responses where frustrations, as well as conflicts, are eliminated by relinquishing the available cultural ways as well as retaining the success-aspiration. Increased societal demands result in ritualism where the goals are dropped because they are beyond reach but conformity to the mores persists (Hannon, 2002).This leads to rebellion as well as crimes due to the frustrations and marginalist perspectives as people try to introduce new social orders. Moreover, the poor people lack enough opportunities to join the unskilled labor which means that the low-income state will force them to engage in crimes and other antisocial behaviors to acquire their basic needs.
The rates of crime within these areas are also high due to the differential access to approved opportunities for the legitimate as well as the prestige-bearing pursuit of the cultural goals and objectives. Lack of an effective integration between the means and -end elements of certain class structures as well as cultural patterns favors the high frequencies of crime within the low socio-economic class. The theory is also valid as it demonstrates how the dominant pressure for success in different social classes increases the use of illegitimate ways of achieving the life goals and objectives. Most of the cultural demands are aimed at accumulating massive wealth, but on the other hand, people are denied equal opportunities to attain the demands (Holzer et al., 2008).This leads to an increase in the rates of crimes within the low socio-economic class. The result of the structural inconsistency is revolutionary activities including crimes and other antisocial conducts. The theory also explains how the equilibrium between the socially designated means and ends becomes unstable when there is much emphasis on achieving the prestige-laden ends by all means.

According to the theory, the rates of crimes within the low socio-economic areas are high when compared to the top class structures because most of the people assimilate the cultural emphasis on success but fail to internalize the morally prescribed norms governing the attainment of the societal goals. Most of the societies stress on pecuniary success and ambitiousness for every member of the society which leads to exaggerated anxieties as well as antisocial behaviors. Due to the high poverty levels, the people at the bottom class structures end up being frustrated (Clinard, Quinney & Wildeman, 2014). The thwarted aspiration, as well as frustrations, make the low-income population search for different avenues to escape from the culturally induced intolerable situations and the unrelieved ambitions which in most cases results in illegal attempts to attain the dominant values. However, the low-income population is not in a position to commit white collar crimes due to the lack of power and means to do it.
The rates of crime are mainly high In the neighborhoods where the poor are more concentrated than in the top class neighborhoods and the poor residents being the most common victims. This is so because the poor population just like the wealthy ones requires more stuff to make their lives better, but they have no legitimate means of acquiring the kinds of stuff. This means that they have to take it from the wealthy population which explains why they are more vulnerable to crimes. Additionally, people living within the rich cities enjoys good infrastructure, more services as well as effective city management as compared to the people within the poor cities who have inadequate services as well as severely limited tax bases which explains the inability to attract jobs (Holzer et al., 2008).As the theory indicates, the poor people are not in a position to even acquire their basic needs which leaves them with no option other than to engage in crimes.
Despite the fact that poor people commit more crimes than the wealthy ones, most of the white-collar crimes are committed by the wealthy people due to the powers and privileges that come along with their positions. Most of the people within the low-socioeconomic status have no power to commit white collar crimes. The power lies with their employers and is sometimes even comparable to that of the nation-state (White & Cunneen, 2015).
Just as the theory indicates, socioeconomic status affects human functioning which includes the mental as well as physical health. Low economic statuses are characterized by low educational achievement, poor health, and poverty which negatively affect the society (Clinard & Yeager, 2011).This means that the poor people will engage more in crimes due to inequalities in health and resource distribution as well as poor quality of life.
Different research works have also indicated that most of the young people from the low socioeconomic status are more exposed to street crimes than white collar crimes at a very young age. The early exposure increases the likelihood of suffering from detrimental future outcomes as the environment is very important when raising the young people. Additionally, adverse childhood experiences within the low socioeconomic communities increase the rate of crimes following its negative relationship with risky behaviors as well as the low life potential.
Another reason as to why people from the bottom class structure engage in crime more than those in the top class structure is the exposure to violence during the early years of personal development. For example, most of the adolescent within the bottom class structure are physically abused which increases their chances of committing crimes while decreasing the odds of getting married and attaining education (Hannon, 2002).Experiencing violence, as well as family conflicts are some of the factors directly related to increased depressive symptoms which can increase the rate of crimes.
Additionally, in most of the low socio-economic areas, there is no community regulation which also increases the opportunities of committing crimes. Some of the factors relating to low levels of interactions within the low socio-economic areas as well as the young generations being allowed to go on the streets unsupervised also increase the rates of crimes in these areas as they break down the social control
Crime and poverty have a very intimate relationship which has been described by experts from different fields such as sociology and economy. According to the World Bank and the United Nations, crime is among the major obstacles to development. This means that efforts to reduce crimes within the low socio-economic areas should also include different strategies to reduce the poverty levels as well as the gap between the rich and the poor (Ikejiaku, 2009).In other words, it can be concluded that where there is poverty, there is always a crime being committed. This is so because people have to fulfill their needs at any cost and the society is not providing the legitimate ways of doing so. The poor people engage in crimes to escape poverty, and because they cannot find well-paying jobs, they end up committing crimes to meet their basic needs.
Despite the fact that some of the people within the low socio-economic areas have high educational levels, the areas are characterized by high levels of unemployment which increases the rate of crimes. This is so because there are many desperate graduates and just like anyone else they don’t enjoy being poor. Lack of the basic needs leaves the graduates with no option other than to engage in crimes because it is the only viable option at that time (Braithwaite, 2013).Furthermore, the Social Structure and Anomie Theory indicates that the poverty-environment forces the young generation to strive for power as well as wealth with aims of being in the same position with those from the top class structure.
Unlike most of the employment opportunities, engaging in crime does not require any certification or school level. This explains why delinquency is highly attributed to the low socio-economic areas as people have to strive for survival. Most of the people in these areas believe that engaging in any crime that promises a turnover is worth their lives. The pressure of prestige bearing success eliminates the effective societal constraints over the means employed to this end (Ikejiaku, 2009).The result of this pressure is that the doctrine of the “end-justifies-the-means” becomes the guiding principle for every action taken by the poor people. This occurs because the cultural structure exalts the end but the social organization limits possible recourses to the approved means. This is not the case in the middle, and high socio-economic areas as people in this areas have all they need to make their lives better.
Another major reason as to why people at the bottom of the class structure engage in crimes more than the ones in the upper-class structure is the stigmatization that results from being underprivileged in the society. Social labeling of particular poor groups as crime centered ensures leads to a belief that engaging in criminal activities in such an ethnic group implies a moral value. Stereotyping people from the low socio-economic areas as criminals make them identify with the accusations which mean that they will be committing crimes for recognition purposes (Braithwaite, 2013).The white-collar crimes provide huge cash which is needed by the poor people to elevate their social standards. Due to lack of qualification, the poor people are forced to work for pennies that only keep them a meager for life. Additionally, research has indicated that poverty negatively affects the psychological capability of an individual. The current societal construction of poverty and wealth defines the roots of the unending poverty as well as crime chains among people within the bottom of the class structure.
In as much as there are other factors influencing crime, poverty within the low socio-economic areas increases the opportunity cost of the old as well as the young generation with limited access to the socially constructive activities to engage in criminal activities (Hannon, 2002).Unlike the people at the top class structure who are always busy, the unfortunate group of people within the poor communities spends most of their time loitering and idling in streets which increases the chances of being introduced to criminal activities.
The theory also indicates that the inequality, as well as discrimination resulting from the class differences based on incomes, increases the rates of crime within the low socio-economic regions. Most of the people in these areas get low wages and lack access to social amenities (Braithwaite, 2013).This partiality in service delivery and access to social services across the two groups encourages the occurrences of crime with aims of getting out of the poor conditions as well as attaining the basic needs.
In conclusion, it is clear from the above discussion that crime is highly committed by the people at the bottom of the social class structure who have low economic status as compared to the people at the top social class structure. This is however not the case when it comes to environmental as well as white-collar crimes as those at the bottom of the class structure lacks the power as well as ways of committing such crimes. Additionally, it is evident that anomie is the explanation behind the distribution of deviant behaviors within the groups defined by classes. Deviant behaviors result from the success goals set by every society which are mainly emphasized for every society member. When one fails to achieve the success, he or she is termed as a quitter. However, the society fails to provide equal opportunities for every member to attain the success which means that some people will be more successful than others. The less fortunate looks for other means to achieve the success including committing crimes and this explains why crime rates are high within the people at the bottom of the social class structure.

Braithwaite, J. (2013). Inequality, Crime and Public Policy (Routledge Revivals). Routledge.
Clinard, M. R., Quinney, R., & Wildeman, J. (2014). Criminal behavior systems: A typology. Routledge.
Clinard, M., & Yeager, P. (2011). Corporate crime (Vol. 1). Transaction Publishers.
Ikejiaku, B. V. (2009). The relationship between poverty, conflict and development. Journal of Sustainable Development, 2(1), 15.
Holzer, H. J., Schanzenbach, D. W., Duncan, G. J., & Ludwig, J. (2008). The economic costs of childhood poverty in the United States. Journal of Children and Poverty, 14(1), 41-61. doi:10.1080/10796120701871280
Hannon, L. (2002). Criminal opportunity theory and the relationship between poverty and property crime. Sociological Spectrum, 22(3), 363-381.
White, R., & Cunneen, C. (2015). Social class, youth crime and youth justice.

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