what society-level factors do you think affect crime?

Street Code

Consider this quote from Robert Sampson and William Julius Wilson in Toward a Theory of Race, Crime, and Urban Inequality:

Shaw and McKay (1942) argued that three structural factors — low economic status, ethnic heterogeneity, and residential mobility — led to the disruption of local community social organization, which in turn accounted for variations in crime and delinquency rates… Arguably the most significant aspect of Shaw and McKay’s research, however, was their demonstration that high rates of delinquency persisted in certain areas over many years, regardless of population turnover. More than any other, this finding led them to reject individualistic explanations of delinquency and focus instead on the processes by which delinquent and criminal patterns of behavior were transmitted across generations in areas of social disorganization and weak social controls (1942, 1969).

This is the “macrosocial” view that Sampson and Wilson discuss, that crime cannot be attributed solely to individual-level (microsocial) factors. Thinking back over the theories we’ve studied this term, what society-level factors do you think affect crime? And why would such factors impact different races/ethnicities differently? Is it differences in social disorganization (Shaw & McKay)? Is it the “code of the street” (Anderson)? Limited access to legitimate coping mechanisms when faced with strain (Merton, Agnew)? Get creative!

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