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The Underclass and Crime

Some sociologists have developed a cultural explanation for crime which uses the concept of underclass rather than that of subculture. Charles Murray do not accept that the underclass shares the same values as other members of society. They see the underclass as responsible for a high proportion of crime and explain their criminality in terms of their rejection of mainstream values and norms. There are different definitions of underclass but according to Murray they are defined by their behavior involving a lack of commitment to regular employment among men and delinquency among children, drunkenness also being common. Women in the underclass are prone to high birth rates outside marriage according to Murray. He does not see the underclass as a poor group but as behaviorally distinctive with distinctive values. He attributes the development of such values to the generosity of welfare states. The payments provided by welfare states have made it possible for young women to become single parents and for young men to reject the idea that it is important to hold down a job. According to Stephen Jones there is a growing underclass who inhabit the run-down areas found in most American cities. He believes this gives rise to rather different criminal activities compared to those found in the lower class in America in the 1950s.According to him, gangs are now divided far more on racial grounds and their major activities center on drugs. Disputes over territory are based on rational economic grounds rather than expressions of male machismo. Ian Taylor also believes that an underclass exists in American and British cities. He believes that the marketization of American and British society, the declining demand for unskilled labor and rising inequality are responsible for the development of an underclass. The long-term effects of increasing inequality and declining job opportunities have affected young, unskilled working-class men. To Taylor, underclass criminality is a consequence of material deprivation rather than an unacceptable culture. He defines the underclass in terms of their economic position.

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