Of all the supposed consequences and effects of poverty, crime is one of the most discussed. It is a common perception that people who live beneath the poverty threshold and who are victims of economic hardship are more likely to commit crime, whether for financial game or otherwise. Although various US census statistics would corroborate this to some degree, it is still pertinent to investigate other factors in criminal behaviour such as the types of crime committed and how poverty influences an individual’s personal morality.
What research has shown is that high rates of crime are more prevalent in low income areas of the US, and therefore that states that are subject to the highest rates also populate beneath the poverty threshold. Crime, however, is a broad and diverse subject matter, and understanding the types of crime most common in these areas is crucial to establishing the role that poverty plays in delinquent and illegal conduct.
The Levels of Crime in Deprived Areas
It is important to remember that the US federal definition of poverty differs to its public perception. An individual or family who are beneath the poverty threshold are not necessarily struggling to exist, but are more likely to have their residual income stretched across daily and monthly expenditure. Therefore, someone who is technically living in poverty in the US may actually live a comfortable life, only without many of the contemporary luxuries and features in higher income households.
That said, there is more than enough corroborative data to support the notion that crime is more common in low income areas. The southern belt of US states (including Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi) all fall beneath the US poverty thresholds of 2009, with the rates of households afflicted ranging between 16 and 20 percent. When comparing these statistics with crime information, these four states in particular record comparatively high levels of violent and financially orientated crimes during the same period.
Texas is an especially relevant example. In terms of fraudulent or financial crime, this state recorded an estimated 4,000 instances per 100,000 thousand of its population, including burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. It also has a poverty rate of 16.2 percent, above the national average and threshold. These statistics, when considered in unison, give a clear indication of financial worry effecting criminal behaviour, and suggest that crimes that incur a financial gain are committed to improve a particular standard of living.
Morality and Crimes of Violence
Texas is not the only state where this is prominent, as further southern geographical areas feature the same statistical trends. Alabama has a financial crime rate of just under 4,000 instances per 100,000 of their population, and a corresponding poverty rate of 16.7 percent. These figures are repeated across the southern state, and corroborate the basic idea of crime for financial and capital gain being committed in areas of economic deprivation and soaring poverty.
A more interesting conclusion can be drawn from the levels of violent crime and morality prevalent in states where poverty exists. These crimes, which include murder and aggravated assault, are not universally committed in the pursuit of financial gain, and therefore should bear a less significant impact on their rates in deprived areas. However, statistics show that these types of crime are also increased in areas that are classified beneath their poverty threshold limitations.
Louisiana sits along the southern state belt-line, and has a murder rate of over 14 percent. This is highest of all mainland US states, and far in excess of the national average of approximately 6 percent. This state also records a poverty rate of 18.2 percent, which is the second highest beneath the neighboring state of Mississippi. From these figures, it could be surmised that harsh environment and adapting to financial hardship not only modifies personal morality in its widest sense, but also conditions it to allow conduct that would improve such circumstances.
Solutions and Resolutions
The statistical trends referred to are repetitive, both in terms of their number and the geographic locations in which they are common. Although crimes of theft and burglary are easier to understand in circumstances of poverty, violent crimes without financial gain are also a logical consequence where personal morality has already been compromised by past deeds and an individual’s surrounding environment and upbringing. The question is what can improve these areas and their issues, in order to reduce both poverty and subsequent crime?
Education would appear to be a logical resolution, and children often look to their elders for guidance and examples of conduct and future living. Parents need to set a good and moral example to their children, and not compromise their own ethics in order to subsist. Even the smallest transgression, when witnessed by a minor, can darken the waters between right and wrong and create a gradual decline into immoral and criminal conduct. Guardians also have a responsibility to encourage aspiration in their children, and nurture them to develop suitable learning and career goals to help improve their quality of live through honest methods.