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by John Spritzler

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In an egalitarian society with no rich and no poor, will there be vastly less crime (such as car theft, muggings, home burglaries, murder and rape) than today? The mass media try to make us believe that the answer to this question is 'No' because something about black people, not inequality, is what causes criminality. But in truth, the answer is 'Yes," as we discuss here.


Those who say "No" argue that even if we had an egalitarian society where everybody willing to work reasonably could do so and then share equally in the fruits of the economy, crime would not be substantially reduced. They say the problem is black people--they're just criminal by nature (genetically) or they have a "culture of poverty" that causes them to prefer crime to honest work. They say the solution to crime (to the extent that there even is one) is to give stiff prison sentences to criminals and (to the extent that the problem is cultural rather than genetic) to somehow change the culture of the people prone to criminality while leaving the capitalist nature of society with its enormous economic inequality pretty much the same.


These "stiff-prison-sentences and change-their-culture" people love to cite statistics to make their case, even though (as discussed below) the statistics they cite do not actually make their case at all. They cite the higher rate of murders committed by blacks than by whites, for example. It is apparently true that the murder crime rate is higher among blacks than whites (as shown here) and likewise for other crimes (based on FBI arrest statistics, at least, shown here) for which the pattern is that, for most categories of crime, the percent of all arrests in which a black person was arrested is greater than the 12.6% of the population that is black, and the percent of all arrests in which a white person was arrested is less  than the 72.4% of the population that is white. Some of this racial imbalance is due to blacks being more likely to be arrested than whites for the same illegal behavior. This is particularly true in the case of drug arrests, as discussed in detail here and here. And some of this imbalance is due to outright racial discrimination by police. For example, the New York Times in an editorial  Nov. 26, 2014 wrote:


"News accounts have strongly suggested, for example, that the police in St. Louis County’s many municipalities systematically target poor and minority citizens for street and traffic stops — partly to generate fines — which has the effect of both bankrupting and criminalizing whole communities. In this context, the police are justifiably seen as an alien, occupying force that is synonymous with state-sponsored abuse."


Still, it seems to be the case that blacks commit crimes disproportionately to their numbers in the population. The question is, what is the cause of this crime? Is it poverty in a society of great economic inequality, or race (i.e., something wrong about black people)? If the cause is poverty, then making society equal (with no rich and no poor) will vastly reduce the problem of crime. On the other hand hand, if the problem is race then even in an egalitarian society crime will remain a big problem.


Here is some powerful evidence that the cause of crime is poverty, not race. The evidence is reported in an academic paper titled, "Extremely Disadvantaged Neighborhoods and Urban Crime," by Lauren J. Krivo and Ruth D. Peterson, both of Ohio State University, in the journal, Social Forces, December 1996, 75(2):619-650 and online here. The authors analyzed census data for the city of Columbus, Ohio for 1990, specifically data for 177 small regions or "tracts," containing at least 700 persons. Twenty-six tracts were at least 70% black and 122 of them were at least 70% white. A higher proportion of the black tracts than the white tracts had extremely high levels of poverty, but the number of black and white tracts with extreme rates of poverty were nearly identical.


This study examined the relationship between crime rate and the following factors: poverty, percent of families headed by females, unemployment, employment in professional or managerial occupations, percent of units that are renter occupied, and the percent of the population that is male and in the crime prone ages (15-24). Sophisticated statistical methods were employed, on the basis of which the authors conclude that, "extremely disadvantaged communities have qualitatively higher levels of crime than less disadvantaged areas, and that this pattern holds for both black and white communities." They add, "Overall, average property and violent crime rates are substantially higher in black communities. However, disadvantage has the same patterns of effects on crime in white and black neighborhoods. Hence crime rates for racially distinct areas generally approach one another when structural conditions [i.e., the factors of poverty, percent of families headed by females, unemployment etc. listed above--ed] are controlled [i.e., when white and black areas are very similar with respect to the structural conditions of poverty etc.--ed]. These patterns are particularly striking for violent crime. Gross rates of violence are nearly three times as high in black as in white neighborhoods, but the net race difference [i.e., when comparing black and white neighborhoods with similar poverty, unemployment etc.--ed] in violent crime is small and nonsignificant for the vast majority of contrasts [one "contrast" would be comparing black and white neighborhoods that both had low unemployment, whereas another "contrast" would be comparing black and white neighborhoods that both had high unemployment, etc. for the other structural conditions factors--ed] between similarly disadvantaged communities. And even when race differences persist, residents confront much less violence in black neighborhoods with low disadvantage than in either black or white communities with extreme disadvantage. Taken as a whole, these findings clearly substantiate Sampson and Wilson's contention that the sources of crime are invariant across race [i.e., the same regardless of race--ed] and are rooted largely in the structural differences [i.e., poverty, unemployment etc.--ed] among communities."


The higher rate of crime in black versus white neighborhoods is thus due to the greater poverty and related hardships that blacks experience compared to whites, which is described in great detail here and especially here and here and here and here. In an egalitarian society with no rich and no poor, and with no involuntary unemployment, poverty and its associated hardships will be a thing of the past, and "street" crime will be vastly reduced.



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