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Chapter 7

SOC102 Habits of Inequality Chapter 7

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Lorne Tepperman

Habits of Inequality Chapter 7 – Crime and Punishment - Disadvantaged people are more likely to commit common crimes, and they are also more likely to be punished for these crimes - Crime is another cost of social inequality - The more unequal a society, the more often people will commit crimes, be victimized by crimes, and be punished for crimes - Criminal behaviour is a result of criminal values, personalities, and opportunities, low self-control, and social injustice o To understand crime, we need to understand the society that gives rise to it o Some have proposed that crime is far too complex to be reduced to a simple, social-determinist formula o Some have noted that crime is to be found in all segments of society, and therefore, it cannot be explained by social or economic factors like inequality - Punishment is important because it is a single of a society’s commitment to a certain code of rules o There can be no group, organization, or society without rules nor punishment - Inequality is one of the determinants of crime - Other determinants of crime o Substance abuse  Substance abuse elevates crime levels  Association between alcohol consumption and aggressive or violent behaviour  Tendency toward criminal activity when under the influence of alcohol  Effects of alcohol  Disrupts normal brain function  Encourages commonly witnessed outward signs of heavy drinking (e.g., slurred speech, difficulty controlling body movements, impaired memory)  Weakens the brain mechanisms responsible for controlling one’s conductivity in society  Encourages impulsive behaviours and inappropriate aggression  Causes people to misjudge or overreact to social cues  Gives people confidence about evading any future repercussions of actions o Drug abuse  Drug users commit criminal acts in order to fund the person’s addiction (e.g., to buy drugs) or to maintain control over drug distribution o Mental illness  Substance abuse has a powerful effect on the mentally ill , who are already at risk of greater tendencies toward substance abuse  15% of the general population abuses illegal substances  50% of the mentally ill abuses illegal substances  Mental illness may explain people’s tendencies toward criminality  Some mental disorders are more closely linked to criminal behaviour because their symptoms violate the rights of others (e.g., antisocial personality disorder, impulse control disorders) o Childhood maltreatment  Neglect, abuse (physical, sexual, emotional), or the witnessing of violence in the household  Socialization in the home influences the criminal behaviour of a person  Negative childhood experiences are associated with increased risk of subsequent delinquent and criminal behaviour  Reproduce the antisocial behaviour they learned as children  Trauma may show itself in persistent mental health problems, substance abuse as a way to self- medicate, or criminal behaviour o Socialization by peers  EDWIN H. SUTHERLAND  Describes the process of learning the attitudes, techniques, and motives of criminal behaviour through intimate interaction with others  Proposes that a person becomes criminal because of an “excess of definitions” favourable to violation of law over definitions unfavourable to violation of law o People break the criminal law when they are exposed to more messages favouring criminal behaviour than opposing it  Argues that specific motivations to act in a criminal or deviant manner can be learned  The self can be shaped to see criminal activity in a socially acceptable behaviour  Group pressures and peer influences contribute to the commission of a crime  People innately need to feel part of a social group, so more prone to social influence  When it comes to crime, no group is more intimidating than a gang o In two of the most gang-populated cities in the US (Los Angeles and Chicago), over 50% of 1000 homicides were gang-related o Education  Quality education leads to employment opportunities and greater propensity to obey the laws  Poor education leads to fewer legitimate opportunities and greater propensity to commit crimes  Poor education increases the likelihood of crime  Evident in Canadian statistics on crime and imprisonment o 41% of all Canadian prisoners have not completed high school o 18% of the general population have not completed high school o Below-average intelligence  People with a learning disability or low IQ have an increased disposition to crime  Perhaps because of barriers of opportunity for success o Limits a person’s educational attainment  Perhaps because of stigmatization and exclusion o Increases social exclusion o Lowers a person’s self-esteem o Triggers the rejection of societal norms and rules o Policing and law enforcement  People will be more inclined to commit crimes when more confident of escaping capture and punishment  Some crimes (e.g., domestic violence, drunk driving) and white-collar crimes (e.g., fraud, tax evasion) are more common because relatively tolerant response from the public and low risk of capture and punishment  Policing diminishes criminal behaviour but increases the crime rates  More availability of firearms increases rates of homicide, robbery, suicide, and other criminality  Permissive gun control causes more crime (e.g., gun violence)  Crimes become easier and more dangerous  Consider the doubling of youth homicide rates between 1985 and 1991 in the US  Consider the tragedy of Newton, Connecticut, where 20 children and 6 adults were killed in a shooting rampage in December 2012 o Mass media  Over-exposure to criminal behaviour and violence in the media can desensitize audiences to the genuine impact of crime and make crime seem normal, or even acceptable  However, there may be a selection factor  People who are inclined to break the laws are also inclined to watch more TV and movies in which law-breaking is portrayed and glamorized - Many factors affect criminality, but social inequality is among the most pervasive and most important of them all - Social inequality interacts with many of the factors mentioned above to produce a variety of criminal outcomes The role of inequality in crime - Sociologists, criminologists, and policy experts debate connection between inequality and crime - Sociologists are concerned with three central questions about crime and inequality o What kind of crime are we examining? o What kind of person or potential criminal are we concerned with? o What social, economic, and cultural factors contextualize (or moderate) the connection between inequality and crime? - Research that has found no relationship between inequality and crime o Malaysian study found no meaningful relationship with any of the various categories of crime (e.g., total crime, violent crime, property crime, theft, burglary) o Swedish study found that an increase in the inequality in permanent income yields a positive and significant effect on total crimes while an increase in the inequality in transitory income has no significant effect o US study failed to find a positive link between inequality and crime, and argued that a far more important influence on crime is the proportion of young males in the population (e.g., the type of people most likely to commit crimes) o Other researchers propose that the connection between inequality and crime is hard to measure  Interwoven connectedness of variables that influence both inequality and crime  Factors that affect inequality also tend to affect crime - Problems arise in defining the kinds of crimes we expect to result from inequality, especially whether we are discussing property crimes or crimes or violence o To understand the link between inequality and crime, we need to refine our measures and specify the types of crimes, perpetrators, and victims of interest - Another debate surrounds the link between macro-level (or societal) variables (e.g., social inequality) and micro-level (or personal) variables (e.g., age, sex, marital status, education, income) o Recent study of crime victimization using data from 42 nations found that compared to macro-level variables, micro- level variables were much better predictors of both the likelihood that crime would occur and its intensity  Social inequality proved to be less important than specific individual experiences of inequality o Mexican study using data on property crime and violent crime, and using two measures of inequality, income and education, found a connection between crime and inequality but the results change at high rates of crime  Non-linear relationship between crime and inequality - Some people are more likely than others to turn to crime in the face of inequality o One study found that an increase in inequality provides an incentive for people already near the crime industry to join o Another study found that inequality affects everyone equally in terms of crime - Majority of academic studies find evidence that inequality increases the likelihood of crime o One study found a strong link between inequality and crime, via unemployment  As unemployment rates go up, so does crime [↑ unemployment = ↑ crime] o One study found that local levels of income inequality account significantly for differing homicide rates o Colombian study found that inequality has a profound effect on the criminality of a particular segment of the population, especially in connection with property crimes - The clearest connection between inequality and crime are seen in property crime o The connections between inequality and property crime are easiest to explain o Property crime is the most rational and practical response to increased economic inequality o Low-income earners have a greater incentive to commit burglary than high-income earners  Regressive income tax contributes to this criminal incentive in two ways  First, legitimate means of earning money are less appealing to low-income earners, who feel exploited by the regressive income tax program  Second, as high-income earners become richer, the expected gains of burglary become greater o Burglary provides a spillover of wealth from wealthy neighbourhoods into poor ones, and a spillover of from poor neighbourhoods into wealthier ones - Many researchers find that inequality affects property crime, but not violent crime - Researchers agree that increases in general income inequality increase the overall level of crime o Anger and resentment caused by unequal access to desired goods causes crime, not absolute poverty - There is research that finds a link between inequality and violent crime, especially in large urban centres o Chicago study found that income inequality adds stress to individuals when they compare their situation to those around them, which leads to violent crime as well as other types of crime o One study found that crime rates and income inequality are positively correlated within countries and between countries, even after controlling for other crime determinants - The crime rates that result from income inequality are a result of government policies that influence inequality o Government policies that increase income inequality contribute to high crime rates  United States  Compared to other rich nations, the US is unwilling to reduce wage inequality  Compared to other rich democracies, the US transfers less money to the unemployed, has a lower minimum wage, and makes unionization difficult through its laws  China  China’s reform period (e.g., political and economic policy) increased income inequality and led to high crime rates among the floating population o Urban workers and peasants lost much of their access to education, employment, housing, and healthcare, and had fewer opportunities to achieve economic prosperity o Huge migrant population was socially disorganized and had no roots in any community  Europe (e.g., post-communist countries)  SUSANNE KARSTEDT o Noticed a recent rise in elite crime (e.g., corruption) and non-elite crime (e.g., violent crime) in Central and Eastern Europe, where subcultures of inequality had developed during and after WWII, despite the homogenizing forces of ethnic cleansing and communist ideology  Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic  immune to subcultures of inequality, due to strong traditions of civil rights and the rule of law  Russia, Ukraine  less immune to subcultures of inequality, so violence and corruption flourished o These subcultures included  Close-knit networks at the top and bottom of society  Clientelism as a pattern of linking them  Non-egalitarian and collectivist value patterns o These subcultures contributed to high levels of corruption and violence  Inequality undermines confidence and participation in public institutions  Inequality promotes the flowering of crime throughout society  DAVID HALPERN o Concluded that self-interested values, along with economic inequality and social trust, explained two-thirds of variance in criminal victimization at the national level  Societies with high levels of inequality and low levels of social trust teaches people self-interested values, which produces the most crime and victimization  Selfish, unequal societies have the most crime and victimization o Self-interested values are found in both more developed and less developed societies Inequality, crime, and race - In the US, most criminological research on inequality focuses on the link between income inequality and racial inequality because the most concentrated disadvantage is found in the black population, but the research is still relevant to Canada - Some of the most interesting, complex research on inequality and crime is centered on racial inequality, not income inequality o RUTH PETERSON, LAUREN KRIVO, and JOHN HAGAN  Race and ethnicity are fundamentally structuring influences in society  Existing theories/research about the link between inequality and crime may not be applicable to other race/ethnic groups (e.g., apply differently, subtle variations across and within race/ethnic groups) o KAREN PARKER  Improved economic conditions, including reduced social inequality, had more positive effects for African Americans than for white Americans  Many social variables affect white people and black people in different ways (e.g., residential segregation, racial competition, industrial restructuring)  Poor black Americans suffer more from segregation, racism, and industrial decline  Reduction in these differences in circumstances also reduces crime rates (e.g., homicides) - Social inequality not only increases crime rates for particular segments of the population, but it also increases imprisonment rates for the same segments of the population o In Canada, Aboriginal people are the most likely to end up in jail o In the US, black people are the most likely to end up in jail - Racial inequality is evident in the unequal distribution of punishment o BRUCE WESTERN and BECKY PETTIT  In the US, the mass incarceration of young black men is largely in connection with the “War on Drugs” and has three main links with inequality  Organization of criminal justice comes down hardest on poor black men (e.g., racial profiling) o Racial inequality and income inequality leads to higher rates of crime and higher rates of imprisonment among poor black men  Over-imprisonment of poor black men has a variety of social effects o Conceals the actual rates of black disadvantage (e.g., under-education, under-employment, unemployment) in US society, since convicts and ex-convicts are left out of official statistics  On release from prison, poor black men face a variety of disadvantages (e.g., social stigma, interrupted education, shattered families) o Hinders their ability to find jobs, keep jobs, and maintain stable family lives o Increases their likelihood of returning to crime and to prison o Passes social disadvantage on to their children - JOHN HAGAN o The link between inequality and crime joins criminologists in opposition to a largely unspoken but still influential economic and political perspective on crime  Inequality is necessary for individualism (liberty) and economic efficiency (productivity) o Economic processes that alter life outcomes also have an impact on crime  Inequality is socially inefficient because it increases crime and punishment  Inequality creates animosities that easily turn into feelings of frustration, hopelessness, and alienation, and can lead to crime o Sanctions cause more crime among social out-groups and less crime among social in-groups  Sanctions are more likely deter crime among social in-groups than in social out-groups  People with jobs try harder to avoid trouble with the police (than people without jobs) because more to lose  Some disadvantaged groups have more trouble getting and keeping jobs, so they are more likely to get into repeated trouble with the police o Social equality is assumed to dampen individual initiative and to produce inefficient, unsuccessful economic results, thus diverting strategic investment from declining communities and disadvantaged people  The problem facing unequal societies is capital disinvestment in the poor  In poorer communities, people are so preoccupied with everyday issues that help them survive that they have very little chance to develop the resources and skills (e.g., social and cultural capital, formal education) that will help them to do well in society, which is especially pronounced during periods of economic decline and economic inequality (e.g., low opportunity costs, little stake in conformity)  Inequality and group frustrations lead people to band together and to organize their efforts in gangs, which represent an effort to reach attainable goals o The problems caused by the link between crime, inequality , and social disinvestment are compounded when individuals become so embedded in crime networks that they have few opportunities to leave  Combination of little schooling, poor job experience, and arrest records provide little or no social capital for affected youth to pursue legitimate career paths  People find it easier to work in the criminal system than to work in the non-criminal system Conformists, innovators, and the American dream - ROBERT MERTON o Most famous sociological explanation of crime o Anomie (or strain) theory  crime is a personal adaptation to social inequality  In modern industrial societies (e.g., Canadian and American societies), there is a gap between cultural goals and the means available to pursue these goals  As children, we are taught to seek material success o This is society’s cultural goal  The only legitimate way to succeed is through formal education and hard work  These are legitimate means because they obey the rules and laws of society  In reality, some people have less access than others to education and employment, the culturally accepted ways to attaining the good life  Some people’s pathways are blocked because of their class, gender, age, or sexual orientation, lack of economic, social, or cultural capital, poor health, poor location, poor transportation, etc.  Life’s opportunities are distributed unequally, which means different people will have different chances of achieving the good life by following society’s rules o The gap between cultural goals and the legitimate means available creates anomie or strain  Adaptation to anomie  people respond in one of five ways when faced with this gap  The most common response is continued conformity  maintain the belief that if they just keep doing what society tells them to do (e.g., legitimate means), they will eventually reach its goals  Conformists means that society can keep functioning and keep its cultural goals intact  Helps social inequality (and modern capitalism) to persist  Response innovation  accept the cultural goals, but reject the accepted means of attaining them  Adapters find innovative ways to get what others try to get through conformity  Involves breaking the law, especially stealing  Professional criminals (e.g., gangsters) are the ultimate innovators  Innovators believe that if you cannot win by the rules, then rewrite them  Not all innovators are convicted or convictable criminals o Gamblers  Gambles legally and happens to win the lottery attains society’s cultural goal of material success, but bypasses the longer, more difficult path of education and employment  Can be extended to people who speculate/gamble in stocks, land, currency, futures, and other commodities  When innovators are too big to fail, they manage to stay out of court and out of prison, despite socially dangerous and injurious behaviour o Tax evaders  Many Canadian taxpayers innovate by paying less than they should  13% of Canadians resist warnings from the CRA and regularly cheat on their taxes  Tends to have low education and income  More likely to be self-employed men under 30 years old  Least likely to see consequences attached to tax cheating  Least likely to fear getting caught  49% of Canadians pay exactly what they are expected to pay  51% of Canadians are potential cheaters  Rationalizers (12%)  believe that taxation in Canada is unfair and try to rationalize or explain away tax cheating  Underground economists (12%)  figure they can get away with it and think that tax cheating is without much risk  Over-taxed opportunists (15%)  feel over-taxed and believe that many others pay cash to avoid taxes o In future, they may break the tax laws o At present, they are law-abiding and fear having to pay penalties if found cheating - EDWIN SUTHERLAND o Tax evaders are an example of white-collar criminals  White-collar crime (defined by sociologists)  property crime committed by white-collar workers  White-collar crime (defined by Sutherland)  corporate crime committed by people of high socio-economic standing, often the holders of dominant positions in large corporations o Carried out an original study of the largely neglected illegal activities of US corporations o Examined the court records of 70 US corporations prosecuted over the previous 45 years o Found that corporate crime was widespread  In total, the corporations had been convicted of 779 offenses, 158 of which were criminal convictions  60% of the offending corporations had at least four convictions each o Noted that if these corporations had been ordinary people, then would be considered habitual criminals  These corporate crimes were deliberate and consistent, like the crimes of Mafia gangs  The executives of these law-breaking corporations often expressed contempt f
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