Poverty correlated to crime.
Poverty has become a major concern in the United States because of the effects it has on the youth in our society. Many young children are faced with lack of food, inadequate living conditions, and lack of parental guidance. Strains are placed on children living in poverty as young as the age of seven. Children living in poverty generally isolated from mainstream society, don’t have access to community organizations, poor schools, low self-esteem, depression, behavioral problems in school, and engage in delinquent activities.
Delinquency among the poor has been studied over the years to see if there is a relationship between delinquency and poverty. Theories have suggested the link between delinquency and poverty is due to unemployment, family disruption, lack of education, marital disruption, female- headed households, teenage pregnancy, isolation of poorer neighborhoods, lack of role models in the communities, less supervised youth programs, and no formal community networks to deter potential criminal (Anderson, 1993; Hannerz, 1968; Liebow, 1967, Rainwater 1970, Sullivan, 1993, Sutles, 1968).
The link between poverty and crime is diverse (Jargowsky and Bane, 1991). The reasons why people who are living in poverty commit criminal acts vary from crime being the only opportunity to achieve a higher level of socioeconomic status to enhance financial ability. People of all class commit crime for different reasons, but it has been proven over the years by different researchers that people living in poverty commit more crime than any other class. This literature will focus on what is known about the poverty and delinquency, the gaps in this field, method used in this field, and current study in this field.
Why People living in Poverty Commit Crime
People living in poverty commit crimes for several different reasons. Survival in the poverty stricken neighborhoods is one of the main reasons for criminal behavior. Often times, many people have to commit crimes such as robbery or burglary as a mean to have financial gain in order to feed themselves and their children or to be able to maintain their household expenses. People also commit crime because it is the norm to take the law into their own hands (Cooney, 1997). High poverty areas do not have the access to the local law enforcement as other areas normally have. Law enforcement is often viewed as not being helpful; therefore, we see many retaliatory crimes committed in these areas. Retaliatory violence in response to “disrespect” becomes a way to achieve status in the absence of other opportunities. People living in such neighborhoods believe that they have to take the law into their own hands because the local authorities have failed to protect them Kurban and Weitzer (2003). The response time to such neighborhoods is much slower compared to neighborhoods in the suburbs, and everyone is viewed as a criminal when they may actually be a victim. Crime in poorer communities is a just a form of self help (Anderson, 1993).
Many people living in poverty do not want to be living in poverty. In order to obtain a higher level of socioeconomic status, crime is seen as the only option (Wilson, 1987). Money that is made by committing crimes such as illegally selling crack cocaine, or another type of drug, or money that was obtain illegally is used to established some type of legal business establishment. Once the legal business is established, there is no longer a need to commit crime and this places the individual into another class. Crime is also committed to have fun or have something to do to occupy an individual’s time (Agnew, 1992). Grand Theft Auto is one of those crimes that are committed to just have fun. Many people, especially, adolescents, commit this offense to joyride around the city.
Many youth begin a life of crime because of their parent’s ineffective parental practices. Being poor and having children to provide for can lead to emotional distress. Parents are inconsistence with their children, forceful, and extremely harsh and the bond between parent and child is weaken (Sampson and Laub, 1994). When that bond weakens, children are more at risk for deviant behavior. Parents are also not involved with their children’s education as other parents in mainstream society. It has been proven that poor performance in school is associated with the onset of delinquency (Maguin and Loeber, 1996). School is often viewed as a place to go to fight and steal from classmates rather than a learning institution. Obtaining an education is not stressed by some parents to their children; therefore; their children never understand the importance of education. School is looked at as a place for fighting, bullying, stealing, and just a place to “hang out”. Poor children are not successful in school. They have been found to be deficient in reading and mathematical skills (Beebe, 1993). Rewards from the school environment are limited by the lack of school success, therefore, the risk for delinquency is increase and a life is crime behavior is developed (Mofitt, 1981).
Growing up in an isolated poverty community, children are told they can not achieve high academics because of their living conditions. Many children are forced to withdraw from school because of attendance. Missing school on a daily basis is a norm in high poverty areas because children lack decent or proper clothing for different types of weather, the lack transportation. They may faced interrupted utility services and over crowdedness in the home they may hinder their ability to attend school and learn