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Causes of Crime

Income And Education

Another theory from 1930s criminologists was that unemployment could be a major cause of crime. In the United States, employment opportunities have been directly related to education. In 1938 sociologist Robert K. Merton (1910–) offered a social theory that crime occurs when society sets goals for its members, such as making money to buy a variety of material goods, but creates barriers to these achievements. Society teaches that persistence and hard work lead to personal financial rewards; however, educational opportunities are often limited to those who can afford to attend college. People who do not receive higher education or college degrees are often forced to take lower paying jobs. Some attempt to achieve material success through illegal means; in this sense social forces can lead a person into crime.

The belief that education plays an enormous role in deterring crime led to educational programs and job training in prisons. Many correctional systems require inmates to attend classes to gain a basic education. Education and job training not only provide a way to find a job and make a legal living, but potentially places the person into a better social environment once he or she is back in society.

Criminologists believe a good job creates social and personal attachments to a person's community that in turn influence whether or not to commit a crime. A person is less likely to commit a crime, even if there will be substantial rewards, if he or she is tied to the community and is respected by its members.

Inmates at an Oregon state penitentiary work at getting their General Education Diploma (GED) while in prison. (AP/Wide World Photos)

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawCauses of Crime - Explaining Crime, Physical Abnormalities, Psychological Disorders, Social And Economic Factors, Broken Windows, Income And Education