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Crime and Economics. Understanding Criminology Tuesday, 01 April 2014. Question. Can economic factors be used to explain crime? How? Are you thinking about crime in general, or more specific types?. Lecture Outline.

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crime and economics

Crime and Economics

Understanding Criminology

Tuesday, 01 April 2014

  • Can economic factors be used to explain crime? How?
  • Are you thinking about crime in general, or more specific types?
lecture outline
Lecture Outline
  • Key concepts in relating crime and economics, and how has criminology used these
  • Economic change
  • Social Exclusion and The Underclass
  • Social Class in the operation of the criminal justice system
  • Concerned with the production and distribution of income, wealth, and resources
  • How does this impact on crime?
    • Propensity to Offend
    • Vulnerability to Victimisation
    • Formal and informal social control
key related concepts
Key Related Concepts
  • Consumption – level of spending on consumer goods in any one year
  • Recession – a downturn in a national economy
  • Unemployment and Welfare
  • Deprivation
    • Absolute deprivation
    • Relative Deprivation
  • Social Class
  • Social Exclusion
theoretical links between crime unemployment and poverty 1
Theoretical Links between Crime, Unemployment and Poverty (1)
  • Strain Theory
    • Anomie: thwarted ambition
      • “Am I worse off than I expected to be?”
    • Inequalities -> relative deprivation
      • “Am I worse off than others like me?”
  • Status Frustration (Albert Cohen)
    • Social class is a clear example of constrained opportunities
    • Crime represents an alternative means of gaining status and prestige
    • Not (necessarily) property crime
theoretical links between crime unemployment and poverty 2
Theoretical Links between Crime, Unemployment and Poverty (2)
  • Control Theory – Travis Hirschi
    • Offending is more likely when a person has
      • Low attachment to others
      • No strong commitment to the future
      • No strong beliefs in conventionality
    • Recession and poverty can undermine:
      • Family and community attachments
      • Commitment to the future (education)
      • Morality
theoretical links between crime unemployment and poverty 3
Theoretical Links between Crime, Unemployment and Poverty (3)
  • Labelling Theory
    • Those who fit the ‘criminal stereotypes’ pose least trouble for the CJS to ‘process’
    • Higher rates of criminalisation for ‘police property’
    • Growing mutual distrust: a growing sense of injustice may push potential deviants into actual crime
fordism post fordism
Fordism -> Post-Fordism

1960: around 1,000,000 crimes per year

: around 20,000 people in prison

1990: around 5,000,000 crimes per year

: around 60,000 people in prison

so what
So What?
  • Right wing / conservative commentators
    • The growth in unemployment, and the growth in imprisonment are coincidences
    • Unemployment: caused by wage increases, resulting in uncompetitive industry
    • Imprisonment: caused by rise in crime rates, caused in turn by problems of moral regulation
    • Unemployment is neither an excuse, nor a justification for crime
so what11
So What?
  • liberal commentators
    • Material circumstances do have an influence on behaviour
    • Poverty > Crime > Prison
    • Poverty can trigger both property and violent crime
      • Dorie Klein “sexual warfare … a stand-in for class and racial conflict”
      • Coser – status frustration leading to aggression against self or others
longitudinal studies
Longitudinal Studies
  • Do people who are unemployed go on to commit crime in the future?
  • Thornberry and Christenson: Philadelphia cohort study of boys born in 1945
  • Strongest links in the more socially disadvantaged groups: the effect of unemployment in triggering a criminal response is much greater amongst the poor
how do levels of consumption affect crime
How do levels of consumption affect crime?
  • Simon Field – macro level analysis
  • Reduced personal consumption / spending (i.e. recession) is associated with a growth in property crime
  • Increased personal consumption esp. on alcohol is associated with a growth in personal crime
what is social exclusion
What is Social Exclusion?
  • Social Exclusion is
    • Diverse: people excluded from political, social and economic resources
    • A social problem, not an individual problem
  • The Underclass: not simply poor
competing explanations for social exclusion
Competing Explanations for Social Exclusion

Motive, capacity and opportunity

  • Individualistic: Lack of individual motivation driven by welfare dependency: self-exclusion from society (Charles Murray)
  • Structural: A failure of the economy to provide enough jobs for everyone: lack of positive role models: social isolation from job opportunities
  • Deliberate: The active exclusion of the underclass by the powerful in society: stigmatizing stereotypes the criminal poor
social exclusion in the official construction of crime
Social Exclusion in the Official Construction of “Crime”
  • Processes by which social groups are identified as ‘problems’
    • Policing discretion
    • Policing strategies
    • Judicial decisions
    • The social construction of ‘social problems’
    • Political focus on “dangerous classes”
jeffrey reiman the rich get richer the poor get prison
Jeffrey Reiman “The Rich Get Richer: The Poor Get prison”

Social class processes can be observed in

  • How the laws are written
  • Who is arrested/charged
  • Who is tried/convicted
  • What sentences are given out

The most harmful crimes fail to receive appropriate criminal justice responses

a riddle
A Riddle:

What type of criminal behaviour results in 1500 deaths a year, where

  • “Policing” is carried out by under-funded, separate organisation, outside of the Home Office
  • Less than 1 in 8 cases result in prosecution
  • Of those, the response is a fine (around £60,000)
  • “Offenders” are consulted about changes to legislation