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Labor, Market and Crime

Syed Mahfujul Haque Marjan

Course Instructor
Poverty, economy and the decision to commit
criminal acts
Most criminological theories have something to say
either explicitly or implicitly about the relationship
between the decision to engage in crime and economic
factors such as poverty and unemployment.
Anomie – the breakdown of social norms and values
There is a strong tradition within criminology which
argues people would conform to prevailing norms and
laws but for the stresses and contradictions in their lives:
so-called Strain Theory (Hale 2009). That is to say, the
individual’s initial ‘standing decision’ is to abide by the
social contract but, for reasons beyond their control, they
are unable, or feel unable, to do so.
• Durkheim
Durkheim’s (1893) concept of anomie – literally a
state of normlessness – describes a situation in
society where rules are breaking down or are
confused and, as a result, people do not know
what to expect of each other (Hale 2009). For
Durkheim, writing at the end of the nineteenth
century, anomie arose during periods of rapid
social change. Crime can rise in modern industrial
societies either because excessive individualism
undermines social solidarity or because the
likelihood of inefficient regulation is greater
during times of rapid modernisation .
Challenges to the concept of anomie
A challenge to the general theory of anomie as a
general explanation of crime is made by Marris
(2000). Referring to Farrington (1997) who finds
only 6 per cent of families account for 50 per cent
of convictions, Marris suggests the problem might
not be individuals without norms but rather a group
of individuals with the ‘wrong’ norms – that is,
‘anti-society’ collective codes. Marris also points to
the rise in crime during the three decades following
the Second World War.
Relative deprivation
A concept related to ‘strain’ is relative
deprivation. Strain might occur not because
the individual lacks the means to meet their
own legitimate needs, but because some other
has even more. This effect may arise from two
contributing factors: clearly the more some
people have, the more another may take from
them, legitimately or otherwise.
• সিসিসির িম্মাসিত ফেল া ি. ফেবসিয় ভট্টাচার্ ব য ল ি,
‘িরকার গত েশক ধলর িায় একটি ফশাভি িবৃদ্ধির হারলক
রক্ষা করলত ফিলরলে। সকন্তু এই ফশাভি িবৃদ্ধির হালরর সিলচ
ফর্ অন্ধকারিা রলয়লে, ফর্ অন্ধকারটি রলয়লে ফিটি হল া
ফেলশর ফভতলর ফিই তু িায় কর্িংস্থাি
য হলে িা, ফিই
তু িায় োসরদ্র্য সবলর্াচি হলে িা, োসরদ্র্য সবলর্াচলির হার শ্লথ
হলয় এলিলে এবং তৃতীয়ত িবলচলয় বড় ফর্িা ফিখালি ববষর্য
বৃদ্ধি ফিলয়লে।’
• অথিীসতরয এর্ি চসরলের কারলে ধিী-গরীলবর ববষর্য বাড়লে
বল র্লি কলর সিসিসি। তালের গলবষোয় ফেখা র্ায়, ২০১৬
িাল ির্ালের িবলচলয় সিলচর সেলকর িাাঁচ শতাংলশর আয়
ফর্াি আলয়র েশসর্ক ২৩ শতাংশ। ফর্খালি ২০১০ িাল সে
েশসর্ক ৭৮ শতাংশ। অিরসেলক উচ্চআলয়র র্ািুলষর আয়
আলরা ফবলড়লে। আর এর িকৃষ্ট উোহরে সহলিলব বযাংসকং
খাতলক তু ল ধলর সিসিসি। ঋলের িাকা রােনিসতক
িুসবধালভাগী একলেসের র্ািুলষর কালে র্ালে। র্ার
অসধকাংশই ফখ াসি হলে বল র্লি কলর সিসিসি।
বাং ালেশ িসরিংখযাি বুযলরা’র সহলিব অিুর্ায়ী
২০১৩ িাল বাং ালেলশর র্াথাসিেু বাসষক য আয়
১০৫৪ ি ার। অথনিসতক য ববষর্য একটি স্বাভাসবক
বযািার র্তক্ষে তা একটি িহিীয় র্াোর র্লধয
সবরাে কলর। সকন্তু অনিসতক ফশাষে িদ্ধিয়া এবং
েুিীসত র্খি র্াথাচাড়া সেলয় ওলে তখি িাধারে
েিগলের আয় ও িম্পে ফশাষক ফেেী ও
েুিীসতবােলের হালত কুসক্ষগত হলত থালক।
িরকালরর রােস্ব ও উন্নয়ি িীসতর্া া র্সে এলের
িহায়ক হয় তলব ববষলর্যর গসত অস্বাভাসবকরূলি
বৃদ্ধি িায়। ভালগযান্নয়লির িুলর্াগ ও উন্নয়লির েি
ির্ভালব তৃের্ূ ির্ালয় য িা ফি ৌঁোলিার কারলে ধিী-
েসরলদ্র্র ববষর্য ির্াগত বাড়লত থালক।
একসেলক িলবাচ্চ য ির্ালয়র
য ১০ শতাংশ ধিীর
আয় ১৯৮৪ িাল ২১ শতাংশ ফথলক ফবলড়
২০১০ িাল ২৭ শতাংশ হলয়লে। অিযসেলক
য স্তলরর ১০ শতাংশ গরীলবর আয় একই
ির্লয় ৪.১৩ শতাংশ ফথলক কলর্ সগলয় ৩.৯৯
শতাংলশ োাঁসড়লয়লে। ফবকারত্ব, খােয ও
সচসকৎিা বযয়িহ অিযািয সিতয িলয়ােিীয়
িার্গ্রীর অস্বাভাসবক র্ূ য বৃদ্ধি গরীবলক
আরও গরীব বাসিলয় সেলয়লে। ির্টষ্টক
অথিীসতয ির্ালয়
য ফেলশর অথনিসতক
য উন্নয়ি
িসতভাত হল ও বযটষ্টক ির্ালয় য ধিী আরও ধিী
হলে, েসরদ্র্ েসরদ্র্তর হলে। এর র্ূ কারে
ধিী-েসরলদ্র্র আলয়র বযবধাি ির্াগত
They suggest income inequality ‘fuels’
polarisation of society. Polarisation is caused by
alienation/identification, where individuals
identify with those similar to themselves and are
alienated from those from whom they differ.
Obviously there are several ways in which
individuals feel they may differ, relative income
is merely one such. The effects of relative
inequality are likely to be confounded with the
effects of unemployment and other labour
market effects
Why Should Unemployment Increase
The rational choice model of crime predicts that
an individual chooses to commit crime when the
expected net gain from crime is greater than that
from staying out of crime.

If one cannot find a well-paying job in the

legitimate labor market, he may be more inclined
to look for a job in the “criminal industry”.
This crime-as-an-alternative-job explanation works
the best for financially motivated crimes, but it can
be applied to other types of crime as well. If you
already have a well-paying and respectable job,
you have more to lose when committing a crime
and may think twice before actually carrying out
the crime.
• This reasoning suggests that crime should
fall during economic booms (when more
well-paying legitimate jobs are available),
and increase during recessions. How can we
reconcile this theoretical prediction with
observed data on crime and unemployment,
where no such relationship is present?
First, monetary gains and losses are not the only
factor in one’s criminal decision. Other non-
monetary factors, such as the sense of guilt and
shame upon committing a crime, should also be
just as relevant, if not more, to one’s criminal

This may be why very few people would actually

consider crime as an alternative “work” when
they lose their legitimate jobs. Most would look
for help from their families, friends, and
governments instead.
Relatedly, crime tends to be heavily concentrated
among a small group of repeat offenders. For
example, criminologist Marvin Wolfgang, Robert
Figlio, and Thorsten Sellin analyzed criminal
careers of approximately 10,000 boys born in
Philadelphia in 1945 and found that only 6
percent of the boys accounted for more than 60
percent of all crimes committed.
For most of the population who have not
committed any crime at all, it is unlikely that
temporary economic hardships will suddenly
cause them to consider making money from
On the other hand, for the small group of high-risk
individuals, adverse economic conditions may still
be an important determinant of the criminal
decision. Economists Eric Gould, Bruce Weinberg,
and David Mustard studied the relationship
between crime rates and labor market conditions
for young, unskilled American men (a
demographic group with high offending rates).
Based on the data between 1980s and 1990s, they
find that young, unskilled men’s wage and
employment rates are significant predictors of both
violent and property crime rates.
Similar findings are reported from other countries
as well. Using data from England and Wales
between 1975 and 1996, economists Stephen
Machin and Costas Meghir analyzed the effect of
wage rates for unskilled workers on crime.
Economist Paolo Buonanno also investigated the
relationship between unemployment rates for
young males and crime in Italy between 1993 and
2002. Both studies conclude that labor market
conditions for young, male, unskilled workers are
significant predictors of crime rates.