Social Deviance: The effects of race on crime


There is bountiful research into the relationship between race and crime and the effect of race on crime particularly in the USA. The disparate statistics in criminal tendencies among the races has led to the construction of theories to explain the possible relationship between race and crime. The main point of concern has been to explain why are Blacks likely to commit crimes compared to other races or reasons behind the lowest propensity for the Whites to commit crimes. On the surface, it can be argued that race is a determinant of crime, but deep digging into the socio-economic livelihoods among the various races living in the United States.

 Strain theory on how race effects crime

America is a land rich in culture and almost every race on the planet of represented in the country. Black-Americans, whites, Asians, and Hispanics from most of the populace in the country that is widely regarded as a land of opportunity.  According to the FBI, whites are more likely to commit crimes than any other race in the country. The Hispanics follow the trend and Asians are bottom in the list of likeliness to commit a crime.  According to Russell-Brown (2009), Blacks were 18.6 more likely to go to prison in their lifetime compared to 3.4% for whites. The Hispanics have a 10% likelihood of going to prison. Western (2007)notes that Blacks are more likely to commit murder than Whites.

There have been attempts in the past to relate race and crime to genetics although there has been little evidence on the same. Modern theories have linked crime to the equality of opportunities in the country. Most of the crimes tend to be committed in the slums or ghettos where abject poverty due to limited opportunities force offenders to criminal tendencies.

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The composition in the judicial system is also a factor that is to be taken into account when explaining the statistics. The whites comprise most numbers in the judicial system. Given that most crimes are directed to Blacks and not the other way round, there are chances of racial discrimination in the system. Russel-Brown (2009) notes that Black is almost synonymous to poor living conditions in terms of housing, employment, and education, much as it is akin to crime tendency.

Blumstein (1986) opines with the findings that propensity to commit a crime is related to social factors rather than mere race or genetics characteristics of an individual. People that commit crime have been found to hail from homes where there was poor parenting or parent-child relationship and contact was either deficient or sporadic, hence causing poor communication and required guidance in moral values of humanity.

Besides, if their parent were social delinquents and criminals, the same values can be passed on to their siblings who erroneously believe they are right moral guideposts. The author also attributes crime to poor economic status among the offenders. According to Hagan and Peterson (1995), homes headed by White women were likely to produce a delinquent child than those headed by white males.

The authors further allude that social disruption among the blacks was higher than in whites’ homes and it is this very factor that is associated with later crimes among the victims. Joblessness is also associated with economic challenges; a fact that blacks are identified with more than in blacks, hence the statistics of the high level of crime engagement. On average, blacks are between two to four times poorer than Whites.

Education and effects of race on crime

Education is a determinant of crime in the United States. Englander () notes that the number of years a child is schooled is related to likelihood in committing a crime. Although some studies have contributed that higher educational attainment leads to increase the propensity to crime among the Blacks, more influential studies have extended the study to analyze the effect of education on future quality of lives.

Burfeind, Burfeind, and Barstusch (2011) note that community and social structure are reasons for differences in crimes committed by Blacks and Whites. Blacks are more likely to live in conditions that make them more susceptible to committing crimes. These are poor economic standards- usually due to joblessness from failure to quality education and teenaged pregnancies, usually associated with out-of-wedlock births.

Deep analysis of the background of the offenders reveals telling statistics of large families that lead to poor family association or parental guidance. Some of them have been found to be associated with drug abuse. America racially discriminated against blacks in various aspects that deprived them of decent living standards of living. They were denied equal opportunities to education and employment and association, like their White counterparts.

In these circumstances, it is likely that poor living standards of the parents to the current generation could explain why they are likely to commit most crimes. Hispanics were also discriminated against in the past before they were allowed to enjoy rights that all citizens were accorded by the constitution.

Western notes that in the past, 20 years, poor and minority men were 20 times more likely to commit crimes that in the year 2000. The emphasis by the author is that there is a strong correlation between economic opportunities and the likelihood of engaging in crime. In the past 20 years, the minorities in the USA were discriminated against and were not accorded equal opportunities for engaging in economically empowering activities, which explains why they committed more crimes then. the situation has since improved and minorities are recognized and allowed to enjoy privileges and other opportunities like the rest of the whites in the country.


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Also, almost all crimes are likely to transpire in the public and not in private places or homes. This means that the poor who associate in the public places where crimes such as hard drug abuse, illegal consumption of alcohol (drunkenness) are more likely to be arrested than the affluent who possibly commit the same crimes in their private homes, which are not under surveillance by the police. More crimes also occur in the urban areas and not in the rural areas or suburban areas where the rich are likely to be found in the serenity of their homes.

This suggests that there are disparities in the conviction of offenders. Because the minorities are likely to be found in the ghettos or streets, where incidentally these crimes occur, then the police would find them and send them to courts.

Racism is also another factor that has contributed to more Blacks and Hispanics likely to be convicted to jail terms more than whites. The whites are the majority in the judicial system, causing inevitable disparity them that are more likely to commit crimes. Brym and Lie (2009) were of the opinion that the crimes that are reported and proceed to full trial are usually biased due to the judicial system.

Because of this, it is possible that more blacks are misrepresented commit more crimes and that what for Whites. This leads to the apparent erroneous presumption that Blacks commit more crimes as compared to the whites in the USA.

Immigrants were found to be more violent and other related crimes that result in the skewed statistics from the judicial system. According to Greene and Garbiddon (1986), immigrants are ‘forced’ to adopt the American lifestyle in the process of acculturation, something that makes them want to resist and tend to oppose it. An example is the Irish traditions that dictate that disagreements are resolved through violence. They also use alcohol and at times, they may exceed to drunkenness.

On immigration to the USA, these minority immigrants find challenges to adapt and are hence meet the opposing hand of the law. They were also discriminated against the USA and later led to their conviction in relatively large numbers. Jewish American was involved in petty crimes such as stealing from cars, street gangs, pick-pocketing, prostitution and extortion, and robbery. Despite being minorities, these groups could end up in jails in more numbers than other races, hence lead to skewed statistics.

Challenging the above view, the Black-Americans in the USA have had their culture in the country for several millennia and cannot be said that their behavior is influenced b acculturation resistances. Besides, it cannot be said that there is genetics of crime that is pervasive in certain races, particularly blacks and a fair extent, Hispanics. The race is a social issue rather than a biological matter, therefore, solving it needs a social perspective and not biological.

Race, therefore, cannot predicate crime in the country that has had a history of injustices and disparities in judicial representation. That race is a predictor of likelihood to commit a crime is but distortions of facts that are miscalculated and perpetuation of stereotypes that serve to disintegrate the country (Mann and Satz, 2002).

A better perception of the situation is presented by Samaha (2005) who stated that crime should be analyzed from personal characteristics that involve emotional and other behavioral traits. Poor self-control and engagement in antisocial behaviors usually lead to later crime tendencies. The point links to families that do not provide adequate moral support to their children. The children are left to copy these behaviors from their peers in the streets and usually fail to complete education and better economic opportunities for support.


Blumstein A  (1986)National Research Council (U.S.). Panel on Research on Criminal Careers Criminal careers and “career criminals”, Volume 2

Western, B (2007) Punishment and Inequality in America. Russel Sage Foundation.

Green, H T &Gabbidon, S L (2009). Encyclopedia of race and crime, Volume 1. London. SAGE.

Mann, C R &Satz, M S (2002) Images of Color, Images of Crime: Readings, Second Edition.Los Angeles.  Roxbury Publishing

Hagan, J & Peterson, R D (1995) Crime and Inequality. Stanford University Press.

Samaha, J (2005) Criminal Justice. New York: Cengage Learning.

Burfeind, J Burfeind, J W &Barstusch, D J (2011)Juvenile Delinquency: An Integrated Approach.Sadbury: Jones and Barlett Learning

Brym, R J & Lie, J (2009). Sociology: your compass for a new world, the brief edition. New York: Cengage Learning.

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