Inequality can also cause a breakdown of some of the institutions involved in control theory which can then cause a reduction in the amount of control on an individual. Unemployment and poverty can lead to a weakening of the social bonds within a family. Tension among the family can also increase which can lead to crimes such as domestic and child abuse and divorce may also occur (Box, 1987, pp. 44-45). A divorce often worsens the situation as 53% of lone mother headed households lived in poverty in 2001/02 compared to 20% of couple households with dependent children (Grover, 2008).
The fact that women also earn less than men on average (Equal Oppurtunities Commission, 2006, p. 19) makes it harder to climb out of poverty. These factors can lead to a further breakdown of control which can cause deviance and rebellious behaviour in children (Box, 1987, p. 45). This can then lead to children refusing to attend or being expelled from schools. A lack of education can prove serious as 49% of the male and 33% of the female prison population were expelled from school, as well as 52% of male and 71% of female prisoners not having any educational qualifications (Social Exclusion Unit, 2002). A poor education can also hinder future employment prospects, and can therefore lead to further poverty.
The final theory that I am examining is conflict theory which is often associated with Marx because of his ideas on the conflict between different social classes. Marx theorised that capitalism would gradually lead to wealth being concentrated within smaller and smaller groups, and that the system also created a class of people who were unable to get work and therefore turned to crime. Marx also stated that the law only protects the ruling elite, not the interests of all citizens. (Newburn, 2007, p. 247).
Willem Bonger used the work of Marx and Engels within his criminological research and argued that poverty is used within capitalism to force the working classes to work for the ruling elite (Newburn, 2007, p. 248). Bonger also shared Marx's view that the law only served the dominant class and this was supported by Edwin Sutherland who argued that large corporations were often involved in acts that should be criminal, but the acts are not criminalised because of the political and economic influence of said corporations. Modern examples of this often involve the use of legal loopholes to evade tax. These laws could be made tighter but aren't and some may say this is because of the influence large businesses and the dominant class have over politics. Overall, conflict theory can be used to explain why it is often the lower classes that are associated with crime and why the upper, or dominant classes, remain unpunished for their criminal acts.
The aim of this essay was to examine the key debates surrounding the relationship between crime and inequality. This essay has highlighted some of the different sources of inequality, such as unemployment and education, and it have also looked at some of the research into the relationship between inequality and crime. The essay also explained some of the different theories and debates that can be used to try and explain how crime and inequality are linked, with examples including strain theory and the idea of class conflict within society. These theories and ideas do help to provide a link with crime and inequality however it seems the empirical evidence to support a causal link can, at times, be lacking. The reasons behind this are that inequality is probably one of many different factors, and that different social groups, societies and individuals are affected in different ways by inequality.
Agnew, R. (2005). Strain Theory. In E. McLaughlin, & J. Muncie, The SAGE Dictionary of Criminology 2nd Edition (pp. 421-423). London: SAGE Publications. Allen, E. & Steffensmeier, D. (1989). Youth Underemployment and Property Crime: Differential Effects of Job Availability and Job Quality on Juvenile and Young Adult Arrest Rates. American Sociological Review, 54 . Box, S. (1987). Recession, Crime and Punishment. London: The Macmillan Press.