Factors of Crime Rates in the USA Literature Review Sample
The critical state of the world economy is a powerful source of tension in the criminal society. In addition, the economic compound of the society’s functioning tends to influence the social order. Reduction of the level of production, imposing higher prices, inflation, and unemployment lead to a significant deterioration in the standard of living of the population, exacerbate existing conflicts, social unrest, and cause an increase in crime rates. Socio-economic situation in certain regions of the USA serves as a favorable condition for the crime rise. This literature review will discuss various socio-economic aspects of the criminal situation in the USA. It distinguishes various points of view on the factors leading to the crime increase in the US, the most prominent of which are immigration, alcoholism, drug abuse, imbalance of income, etc. The elements of literature review are located in a chronological order and represent a cross-disciplinary study.
Socio-Economic Factors and Crime Rates in the USA
When investigating any crime from the point of view of socio-economics, it is significant to define its causes, conditions, and factors. Abdullah, Hedayati Marzbali, Woolley, Bahauddin, and Maliki (2014) have a strong conviction that interdependence of socio-economic factors and high crime rates in the USA is one of the central problems in the American criminology. When considering the determinants of a crime – a female crime, in particular – Abdullah et al. (2014) state that it is critical to understand a combination of three phenomena: the immediate cause, the conditions of an action, and factors that contribute to the crime. The difference between the selected determinants (the actual causes, conditions, and factors) is sufficiently relative. In practice, they do not act in isolation from each other, but are closely related and embodied in a single crime situation. The study of crime determinants is appropriate and justified to be carried out at three levels: general social (at the level of the whole society), social and psychological (at the level of small social groups), and psychological (interaction of the individual offender with a particular life situation, such as that related to committing a crime).
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Abdullah et al. (2014) suppose that education and high qualification allow women to compete and occupy positions that were previously granted only to men (such as those in business, financial institutions, and governments). However, the full and effective ‘gender equality’ is impossible in the modern society. Thus, the authors note that inequality occurs in different areas, such as employment, professional activity, the division of labor, the level of payment, etc. In fact, inequality is a phenomenon that is inevitably and genetically inherent to any society. This aspect influences an increase in the crime rate in the USA because women do not receive things they are expected to get.
One of the socio-economic factors which lead to the increase of the US crime rates is unemployment. Fijwala, Palasinski, and Shortland (2014) argue that unemployment is dangerous in many ways. Redundancy and the lack of regular employment is perceived as a shock that dramatically breaks people’s lifestyle, decreases a stable source of livelihood, and influences the usual medium of communication. According to Fijwala, Palasinski, and Shortland (2014), the lack of steady and sufficient income results in impossibility to obtain resources necessary for satisfying the natural needs (food, clothing, housing, etc.). However, the problem of material wealth is not the only one that exists in the unemployed. This served as the major reason to include this study into the literature review.
The essence of dismissal as a negative socio-economic factor is stress. The authors state that the state of instability creates the feelings of insecurity and anxiety, which intensify if a person cannot find a job for a long time. Another negative consequence of continuous unemployment is professional degradation. Meanwhile, an inevitable consequence of deterioration of professional knowledge and skills is the employee’s smaller interest in the job seeking process. In other words, although being out of work provides time for improving professional skills, long unemployment results in the loss of qualification and becomes an obstacle to getting a job. Thus, the authors conclude that all these tensions (psychological, social, and economic ones) lead people to commit various types of crimes in order to earn the living. Such cases, as stated by the authors, are common for the US as well as for other countries.
Economy is a decisive factor in determining the crime situation. Melsness and Weichelt (2014) have a firm conviction that the unfavorable state of the economy determines a complex social situation. This research has been chosen for review due to describing a versatile nature of relationship between economy, social and crime situation. The authors argue that the USA does not provide enough support to the family, motherhood, and childhood. Besides, the country does not provide adequate protection to the most important institutions of social order. The current state of the free medical care system, preschool and school education cannot be considered as fully corresponding to the real needs of the American society. This situation hinders the successful solution of the problem of ‘double employment’ – namely, combining employment with caring for the family and children. The need to properly perform a wide range of duties (professional – at work, mother/father and wife/husband – at home) inevitably leads to undue stress, which adversely affects the mental and physical health of citizens.
The second idea the authors provide is that migration has a negative impact on the social well-being of the society and contributes to the rise in crime rates. The negative influence of migration is caused by population displacement, which leads to instability, conflicts, and aggravation of socio-economic and political situation in the USA. Furthermore, migration leads to the appearance of refugees, who need special measures to be supported and protected. Social disorder and insecurity of this group turns them into objects of high crime and victimization risk. Melsness and Weichelt (2014) also determine the impact of migration from rural areas to cities on the USA crime rates. Greater freedom, diversity, and temptations of city life can place a person from the country in a criminal setting, causing ‘incorrect behavior’ and, eventually, antisocial or even criminal way of life. A similar ‘fate’ awaits females who cannot safely settle in a new environment, and, therefore, they engage in drug trafficking, prostitution, etc. in order not to return to the rural area of their origin.
Crime is manifested in deeds. The scope of criminal acts is enormous, ranging from murder to abuse of the national emblem or flag, rape, illegal cutting of trees and bushes, genocide, and consumer fraud, etc. Reike (2014) states these diverse actions have one thing in common – the violation of criminal prohibition. Obviously, there can be a common cause, which is diverse and qualitatively defined phenomena without any natural borders. Thus, it is significant to consider the research by Reike (2014). The author believes that the socio-economic system generates all social phenomena, not just crime. He argues that crime is just one of the types of deviance. Analysis of criminological theories leads to the conclusion that the ‘causes’ of crime are always at the same time ‘causes’ of alcoholism and drug addiction, suicide and prostitution, administrative offenses and civil-law torts, or simply immoral behavior. In other words, there are circumstances (factors) that predetermine deviant behavior. It often depends on a chance or individual characteristics of a subject, what consequences such a behavior will have. Generally, an accident in the modern science plays an immeasurably greater explanatory role than causality or rigid determinism. This conclusion has been made by the author in relation to the USA, but it can also be applied to any other country.
Another socio-economic factor which influences the US crime rates is the freedom of conscience and religion. According to Seyed and Aavani (2014), the factors that contribute to crimes that infringe on the freedom of conscience and religion in the USA are quite diverse and complex. This approach attracts the attention of investigators. In addition to external components that have a deep psycho-emotional basis, these crimes require an integrated approach to the problems for their subsequent prevention at both societal and criminological level. Seyed and Aavani (2014) make a special emphasis on the fact that the study of this group of criminogenic factors is one of the most pressing problems in criminology. This is not only due to a sharp increase in the number of such crimes committed in the country, but also by their audacious character and the way of commission. Another reason for increased importance of these crimes, as argued by Seyed and Aavani (2014), concerns a higher degree of public danger for the societies where there are multiple ethnic groups with a different worldview and religious beliefs. Certainly, this compound is more social than economic.
Seyed and Aavani (2014) state, crimes encroaching on the freedom of conscience and religion have been the subject of open discussion among the US government bodies. They expressed their concern about the negative consequences, including political ones, of such crimes. Thus, this particular type of crimes leads to social and political conflicts that are unresolved in the early stages of formation due to a failure to find a constructive solution. Also, the lack of a unified state system for monitoring state and confessional relations on the basis of complex (multifactor) assessment results from inability to identify and take action to prevent the emergence of conflicts and reduce tensions. Furthermore, Seyed and Aavani (2014) think that the lack of quality training of the US state and local authorities on resolution of conflicts arising on religious grounds is another socio-economic factor leading to high crime rates.
In the context of deep socio-economic changes, the issues relating to crime problems are increasingly important. Particularly relevant is the problem of a steady increase in delinquency and criminalization of juveniles as well as an increasing level of hatred with which they commit crimes. Jabar, Hannan, and Mohsin (2015) clearly indicate that the solution to the problem of juvenile crime should be sought at the interdisciplinary level. Unlawful behavior of juveniles and non-compliance with social norms have acquired a mass character in the recent years, which puts this phenomenon into the focus of social workers, teachers, psychologists, and law enforcement officials.
Additionally, according to Jabar, Hannan, and Mohsin (2015), before dealing with the consequences of delinquent behavior (the crimes), through the USA punitive system, it is significant to identify the underlying socio-economic factors. The authors claim that the removal of these factors would produce a greater effect than isolation of juveniles from the society. This is one of the central ideas of the investigation that attracts the reader’s attention. Such measure can prove successful if integrated in addressing juvenile crimes in the future. Thus, the authors believe, providing the socio-economic negative factors are reduced, it would also be easier to identify those preventive measures that can give the most tangible results in reducing youth crime and recidivism.
The risk factors are referred to as features, circumstances, and all types of events or experiences statistically correlated with the facts of committing antisocial acts. Risk factors include psychological (behavioral) as well as socio-economic indicators. When depicting the socio-economic factors of the US crime rates, Richardson and Vil (2015) pay close attention to the main risk factors of child and juvenile delinquency. It is connected with the socio-economic aspects of the environment juveniles live in.
To make their investigation predominant and versatile, Richardson and Vil (2015) single out individual factors, including early anti-social behavior caused by unfavorable social and economic conditions of the environment a child is brought up in. They state that the family factor is important, including antisocial behavior of parents such as mistreatment, violence in family, divorce, family structure, living in a poor family, etc. Secondly, the school and social factors are characterized by failure associated with schooling, low academic performance and interest, environmental disadvantages, concentration of criminal groups among peers, availability of weapons. Thus, the socio-economic aspects introduced by Richardson and Vil (2015) reflect the life in some communities in the USA, which shows that socio-economic factors contributing to the crime rates in the USA are tightly interconnected with the social setting, such as families and schools.
Similarly to Richardson and Vil (2015), Salmi, Kivivuori, and Lehti (2015) state that the main causes of juvenile delinquency are a lack of entry points in the communication and relevant models of behavior in the family. Thus, frequent absence of parents, psychopathological problems associated with physical or sexual abuse in the family, the failure of the education system to cherish social values in youth, poverty, unemployment and social exclusion, personal problems related to alcohol or drug use, and excessive and unwarranted display to violence in the media are the major factors contributing to juvenile crime.
According to Salmi, Kivivuori, and Lehti (2015), the prison crime, as an integral component of overall crime, has the same symptoms and causes (factors). Such a hyperbolic position makes the investigation stand aside from the others and provides a current level of problem research. The US crime rates in prisons are influenced by various factors related to the nature of the crime as a whole and its specific types. Thus, disorganized processes in the political, economic, social, and other spheres of the society are stated among the factors that negatively influence crime in prisons. The set of criminogenic and anticrminogenic factors is a kind of background for social development in which changes occur and the crime rates increase. The mechanism of their impact on crime in prisons is very complex and is defined by many characteristics of an objective and subjective nature. Salmi, Kivivuori, and Lehti (2015) state their study contributes to the objective of combating crime. In this regard, it is appropriate, apart from neutralization or reduction of the impact of adverse factors affecting the intentional infliction of harm to the health of convicts, to ensure identification and implementation of new measures capable of reducing crime rates.
At the same time, when analyzing different points of view on the risk factors contributing to antisocial behavior, it is possible to consider the impact of legal institutions of socialization on the range of actions caused by socio-economic factors. According to Weatherburn and Schnepel (2015), the primary institution of socialization and the major risk factor recognized as the initial stage of socialization is the family. The development of the primary forms of behavior takes place in the family. The study by Weatherburn and Schnepel (2015) is extremely important because it shows that inadequate education, family discord, and ill-treatment are closely linked to early juvenile crime in the society.
The second most often debated aspect of juvenile delinquency is the social capital and the person’s economic state. The social capital stands for the characteristics of interpersonal relations: the indifference and carelessness of parents towards their children, conflicts, emotional discomfort, violence, excessive control or, on the contrary, a complete lack of discipline. All these factors disrupt personality, gradually increasing the risk of delinquent behavior.
Another significant problem contributing to antisocial behavior is exposition to violence and anti-social behavior, and the tendency of minors to use alcohol and drugs. As Weatherburn and Schnepel (2015) state, alcohol has a direct effect on the person’s cognitive and physical condition, reduces self-control, and increases the risk of emotional instability and impulsivity, which in turn reduces the ability to recognize danger signals in critical situations. As a result, minors who start drinking alcohol at an early age are more likely to become aggressors and crime committers.
Finally, it is significant to analyze socio-economic determinants which would reduce the crime rates in the USA. The study by Varshney, Mahapatra, Krishnan, Gupta, and Deb (2016) is believed to be one of the most up-to-date in this regard. The authors synthesized theory and practice in their investigation and came up with numerous important points and conclusions. They have identified five main types of measures that can reduce the level of delinquency. They are as follows: implementation of government programs to provide economic, legal, social, and other kinds of assistance to low-income and disadvantaged families with children; development and implementation of programs aimed at correction of antisocial behavior in schools; organization of measures to improve cooperation and communication skills for children and parents; organization of educational activities for parents and teachers to improve the skills of education and communication; and increasing individual control over social risk families.
Taking the above mentioned facts into consideration, one can conclude that in order to reduce the level of delinquency, close attention should be given to elimination of situational risk factors as well as imposing control of socialization institutions. Therefore, it is necessary to carry out preventive work with families at risk, pay more attention to elimination of communication problems with parents and peers, raise moral consciousness, and promote elimination of deficiencies in the formation of the sense of justice. All these measures will provide an opportunity to direct the behavior of minors in socially approved channels.
The main socio-economic determinants of crime rates acting at the general social level include unemployment, faster growth of expenditure compared to income as a result of inflation, and the lack of demand for youth labor in the market. In addition, the scholars believe that the nature of work and working conditions, social and economic inequality of different population groups are also important crime factors. Finally, gender inequality manifested in employment, job status and payment as well as the low level of social guarantees in the field of family, childhood, migration, and urbanization contribute to high crime rate in the American society.