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Does Poverty cause crime?

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What causes crime? Does poverty cause crime? Or does crime cause poverty? Some feel that poverty causes crime. Others though, feel that crime rates have nothing to do with poverty and that crime may actually cause poverty.

If poverty causes crime than why are crime rates lower in poor third world countries than in wealthy super powers? Robert Rector feels that it is not poverty that causes crime but the anti-poverty programs that cause crime. He feels that the United States has created its own crime problem because the U.S. pays people not to work or be married through the welfare program. In a sense people are being rewarded for doing nothing. The welfare program causes crime because it creates an unhealthy environment for children; it teaches them that you do not have to work hard in life to be rewarded. The welfare program only provides enough for a family to barely get by so people get “greedy” and don’t want to have to work so they turn to crime so they can be better off. It spoils people in a way because after you have been on welfare for awhile you begin to develop a “why should I work if I don’t have to” attitude!

Another theory is that supports the idea that it is not poverty that causes crime but the lack of values that causes crime. For example in Bombay where there is one of the highest poverty rates and also rich housing rates, people can walk through the streets night or day feeling safe. People even leave their bicycles unlocked without fear of them being stolen. Another period in time that does not support the theory that poverty causes crime is the Great Depression. During the Great Depression many people lost their jobs and everything they had, but crime and murder rates did not increase. This just goes to show you that there is not a direct correlation between poverty and crime.

Those that feel that poverty causes crime believe that with poverty there is an increased likely hood that children will come from single parent homes, they will have less education, and will hold a lower value system. All of theses things contribute to crime. It is also easy to see why people feel that poverty causes crime because if you look at the people who are in prison most of them are poor. Some may say this is because the cops target poor areas, but did you ever stop to think about why they target poor areas? Is it because more crime occurs in poor areas rather then non-poor areas?

The Strain theory supports the idea that poverty causes crime because the strain theory looks at social factors that cause crime, and poverty is a social factor. Strain theorists believe that everyone subscribes to basically the same goals and values. Crime occurs because the lower classes (poor) do not have adequate means of reaching these goals so they turn to crime. If you think about it this theory makes a lot of sense because in our society it is taught that everyone has the opportunity to move up so therefore when someone can not move up they become frustrated and turn to crime. They turn to crime because they see it as the only way they will be able to “live the good life”.

After researching I have come to the conclusion that poverty does not cause crime. I feel this way because even though poor people are more likely to commit crimes I do not believe it is a result of poverty. I would not go as far as saying that I agree with Biological Deterism, which is the idea that criminals are born not made. I feel that you are a product of your environment. If you live in a place where you are exposed to criminal behavior on a constant basis, it does not matter if you are wealthy or poor you will still most likely engage in criminal acts. Studies have proven this, for example middle class children who have been exposed to criminal behavior in the home are just as likely as poor children who have been exposed to criminal behavior in the home to become criminal themselves.

Another reason as to why I do not feel that poverty causes crime is because many third world countries have a lower crime rate than super powers. I feel that super powers such as the United States have a higher crime rate than places like India because in the U.S. you are taught that everyone has the opportunity to move up in the world, so when poor people do not have a fair shot at bettering themselves they often turn to crime. Whereas in India you are taught from birth that you do not have the same opportunities as higher class people therefore there is less crime.

There are many different perspectives on poverty and crime. In some ways you can see how poverty does cause crime but in other ways you can not find a correlation. It all depends on what perspective you buy into.

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