Is there any direct relationship between economic hardship, class and crime? Pay particular attention to empirical evidence.
When looking at economic hardship, class and crime, most would say without hesitation that there is a direct relationship between them. Social class and economic status have been a central focus in research studies of crime and delinquency for over a century (Bartol, 2002). Society’s perception of our criminal counterparts suggests that all criminals have stemmed from poor, lower class families who have had little opportunities in life and this has created an incredibly strong stereotype of those in this situation. While there is strong evidence to support that there is a relationship between economic hardship, class and crime, it does not isolate those facing economic hardship as the only ones responsible for today’s crime rates. Social stratification and the development of the underclass have caused discourse in society due to the huge lifestyle differences between the rich and the poor. However, not all poor people are criminals, and not all rich people are innocent, regardless of what their stereotypes may suggest. Strain theories have been developed over the years by many sociologists such as Merton and Cohen following the work of Emile Durkheim which determines relationships between economic hardship, class and crime.
Economic hardship refers to the poor economic status a social group may encompass. According to King (1998), the percentage of Australians living in economic hardship or poverty has risen over the last 20 years from 20.6% to a startling 30.7% (Bessant & Watts, 2002). Those most at risk of being poor are young people and single mothers. A person’s economic status subsequently determines the social class that defines them.
Class is a term used commonly in sociology in order to differentiate the population on grounds of economic considerations, such as inequality in terms of wealth or income (Bilton et al, 1996)....