How Poverty Affects Crime in the US
The challenges that people who live in poverty face are well-known to much of the country. It is widely known that people living at or below the poverty line in the U.S. experience difficulties finding and keeping adequate housing. They also struggle to access proper medical services, sufficient food supplies and basic necessities like clothing and transportation that other people livable good salaries and wages take for granted.
However, out of all of the struggles that people in poverty face, the most serious is the ability to avoid committing crimes. As evidence shows, people who live in poverty are statistically more apt to commit or become the victims of crimes, more often than not in the very neighborhoods that they call home.
The Correlation between Poverty and Crime
Statistics reinforce the theory that people who live in poor neighborhoods experience higher crime rates than people who live in neighborhoods with higher incomes. In fact, residents of poorer neighborhoods are statistically close to 40 percent more likely to experience or commit violent crimes. This percentage pales in comparison to the one found in higher income neighborhoods, which indicate that fewer than 20 percent of their residents are likely commit or become the victim of crimes.
Even more, evidence shows that crime and poverty are a vicious cycle in which residents in poor neighborhoods are often unable to escape. Because they do not have the financial means to lift themselves out of poverty, they are more likely to seek ways to ease their emotional, mental and physical distress. Their means of comfort often include taking drugs, which in and of itself is a crime that leads to many being arrested and jailed.
Further, residents in poorer neighborhoods turn to committing crimes as a way to get money or valuables that they can sell to get cash on which to live. They statistically are more likely to engage in or become the victims of crimes like:
- Breaking into cars
- Selling drugs
- Gang activities and turf wars
They also are at an increased rate of becoming the victims of or committing homicides.
Crime and the Impact on Finding Work
Once residents of poor neighborhoods are arrested for and found guilty of these types of crimes, they not only face the challenge of finding work that will lift them out of poverty. They also have the added burden of trying to find an employer that will offer them a job despite having a felony on their record.
Because of this added burden, many felons who are released from jail find themselves with few to no options other than returning to their former neighborhoods and resuming their life of crime. This return puts them at risk of re-offending and being sent back to jail. They cannot escape the cycle of poverty and crime.
Alternatively, those who manage to avoid committing crimes still find challenges in finding suitable work. Because they live in poverty, they lack the money to obtain quality formal training, even if they graduate from high school. Their lack of formal training leave them without the skills needed to find and keep high-paying jobs that lift them out of poverty and let them live a better life.
With that, law enforcement and those within the justice system face challenges of their own in helping people from poor neighborhoods avoid becoming statistics of crimes like homicide and burglary. Until these challenges are answered sufficiently, the connection between poverty and crime will continue. People living in poor neighborhoods will have a greater chance of getting caught in this cycle that they then may find difficult to escape.
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