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The Effects Of Poverty On Crime Cassandra Collins Athens Technical College Thesis

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There has been much research between crime and poverty and how to combat both. As long as an area has poverty there seems to always be high criminal activity. I will be discussing the effects of poverty on criminal activity. Even though one has an effect on the other in certain ways, there are still other factors to consider when involving the two issues. Poverty and crime continue to go hand and hand but I believe once we determine a way to address the poverty issue then we can have some control of the crime as well. In the world today, crime is everywhere; whether in an upscale neighborhood, a small suburban town or in a poverty-stricken city. It is in the poverty areas where crime is mainly focused and has been addressed as a major problem. It has been proven that people are more stressed when living in poverty and it can cause them to commit crimes whether the crime is a burglary, a robbery or something more violent. In poverty areas, the education is not as high as other areas with more access to better education so this can lead to the youths either caring less about getting an education and staying out of school more an more which can lead to them committing crimes and/or joining a gang, or it can cause them to see themselves as not being good enough to get a better paying or high achieving job and settling for something less and eventually being in poverty in the future. Starting in the 1970s, studies in the U.S. pointed more and more at the link between unemployment, poverty, and crime. Then there was a later connection with income level, time spent at school, quality of the neighborhood, and education (Ward, 2015).

Areas with youth job opportunities, strong social organization, immigration and residential stability are among several neighborhood characteristics associated with lower crime rates (Sackett, 2016). When children are shown that they have the opportunity to become successful so that they do not have to have poverty become an issue in their lives, then it can help to alleviate some crime in the area. But unfortunately, youths have seen more glitz and glamour in crime and so they see it as a way to get the things they want without having to truly earn them. The consequences of committing a crime do not deter many youths because it is not taken seriously in their eyes. The possession or notoriety of the crime itself far outweighs the consequences for them. Many cities have youth organizations and clubs that mentor the youths and attempt to guide them in being productive members of society but again, one can not get every child to participate because maybe the parent is not interested. There are households that are single parent earners and they may need one of the children to watch their siblings or to watch themselves while the parent goes to work. While that parent is away, the child may get into mischievous things that they shouldn’t such as hanging with the wrong crowd or just committing small crimes as theft, just so they can get what they want that their parent can’t afford. In communities that are in poverty areas, you have those certain individuals that have been arrested for a crime and now have to go to court. Because of their income level, they can’t afford an attorney of higher cost to represent them better and so they have a public defender who can only do as much as he or she is paid. That public defender is more likely overworked and underpaid and so attempt to convince a person who may be innocent to take a plea deal in order for the client not to do as much time as he would if he or she may have been found guilty during a trial. Now, you have an innocent person who has just gotten a criminal record for a crime they didn’t commit and since they have this record, they cannot get the job that may have given a better opportunity to get out of poverty.

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This happens many times more than we realize (Burdziak, 2017). Even if a person committed the crime they are arrested for, sometimes their fine or fines can be well above what they can pay for and so they end up jail. This happens so much and so we end up with overcrowding of jails and prisons. Many times, the white-collar criminal is the one who can afford to pay the fines and/or fees because they a wealthy enough to do so but the ones the system hits the hardest are low-income people who are mostly people of color. In certain poverty areas, since the citizens there don’t have much means to make their community look as eye appealing as others that are more financially capable, the surroundings such as the landscape and the buildings, start to look more run down and many are abandoned. Since that community looks bad then people do not come out as often and so the criminal element starts to show itself more and more until they have taken over that area. And like a revolving door, the crime goes up then people don’t go out as much and so more crimes are committed and so forth. Disorder is not directly linked to serious crime; instead, disorder leads to increased fear and withdrawal from residents, which then allows more serious crime to move in because of decreased levels of informal social control which is in broken window modeling (Wilson, 2018).

Sometimes, even being poor is a crime. A person can come from a poor or crime-ridden neighborhood but they themselves are an upstanding citizen and go apply for a job. That employer might know the neighborhood and decide that since the applicant is from there then he or she must be a criminal and so decide not to hire or even consider them for hire at their company. This is reality and happens time and time again. If this happens to a person too many times, they may get the notion that crime is their only way to get anything any life if it’s just food and clothing. A person will have so much struggle in their life that they come to see that crime is their only way to take care of themselves. It may not even be for material things but to cope with the reality of being poor. A person may go out and commit an assault or rape and it’s all in the name of having power over someone else because they have no power in their own life over the situation they are in. Businesses have also left the poorer areas and went to more suburban areas where the population is mostly white and the crime is low. Companies do not want to build a business or bring in jobs to areas that are overrun with crime because they feel it will make them lose money. When there are no jobs for people in the poorer areas then they have no way to sustain themselves and they have to take meaningless low paying jobs just to make ends meet. That poor person may not have a car to get to the high paying job that may be a few cities away and are stuck in their area.

With the jobs lost to the already poor area, crime does go up and though the people would love to not have that much crime in their town, there’s not much they can do to stop it. Police can do all they can to slow the criminal activity in the area but with the constant revolving door of re-offenders and new offenders and juvenile offenders, it’s hard to get a handle on and so they must do what they can with what they have. Another factor that has to be looked at when involving poverty and crime is race. Throughout time, a person’s color has kept them from getting a job. Racism has led to many rundown neighborhoods to develop because a person can’t get a job because of their race, so they have to make ends meet by other means. Skin color has been the leading factor in many employment criteria regardless of education and unfortunately, it has left many citizens jobless or working jobs that pay less than minimum wage. When a person is bringing home pennies, there is not much that can be put into the neighborhood as far as finances because they have to use it just to get by and maybe support the family they have with every cent.

If one takes a tour across America and check out the poverty-filled cities, you can see the crime rate is as high as the poverty line if not higher. Sometimes just getting a community involved with watching out for their own neighborhood is tough because of the street code of nobody wanting to be a snitch. But if a person has a crime committed against them, they definitely want someone to identify the one who did it so they can get justice but more than most, it won’t happen in poor towns. When no one will help to stop the crime then the criminal element will just keep growing and you can’t remedy the issue. Poor people just don’t want to get involved because they may think that no one cares enough to stop the crime in their poor neighborhood. Conclusion We as a combined people need to fix the situation and look at what we can do to alleviate these poverty areas and help support ourselves in combating crime and poverty. People who are in positions and have unlimited resources should want to help either increase the earnings of these workers making minimum wage or maybe bring in jobs that have better pay and benefits to or close by these areas. There are many who barely make enough money to even eat and have shelter for themselves so to get that bare comfort they will continue to commit crimes. If we can help fight the poverty rates then I think we can also slow the crime rate in those areas.


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