Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: November 23, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412959193 | Print ISBN: 9781412959186 | Online ISBN: 9781412959193| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Inequality and Crime
Graham C. Ousey
A recurrent theme in the macro-level criminology literature suggests that crime rates vary directly with the extent of social inequality. In fact, both classic and contemporary crime scholars proffer the thesis that inequality in income, employment, and education are predictive of crime. Generally speaking, theories of the nexus between inequality and crime can be sorted into two groups. The first group consists of theories that envision social inequality as a salient cause of criminal behavior . In contrast, the second group argues that social inequality affects the definition of crime and the application of criminal justice mechanisms. The most prominent inequality-crime argument is the relative deprivation thesis. This argument suggests that criminal behavior is motivated by a feeling of injustice that individuals experience when they become aware that others are more economically advantaged. Relative deprivation is thus a social-psychological construct that arises from a subjective perception of inequity. Because individuals ...