Finding the Relationship between Unemployment in the US and the Rate of Robberies among African Americans and Hispanics.

Unemployment is defined as the total number of people without jobs over the total number of the labour force. There two kinds of unemployment namely: voluntary and involuntary. The former states that the phenomenon is large due to a person`s own choice not to seek for a job. The latter states that the person has no control over certain factors affecting his capability to secure a job.
The phenomenon is believed to be directly or and directly related to social problems. There are various publications and researches which suggest the connection of crime and poverty, unemployment and crime rate, lack of education and poverty, etc. Whether one or more factors are involved in unemployment is a rather difficult question to answer. However, economic models and social theories suggest that the factors are connected.
This paper is necessary to shed light on the issue regarding the connection(s) between factors involving unemployment and crimes. Is unemployment a cause or effect of factor(s)? What are the primary causes and effects then of the phenomenon? What are the best actions to be put underway to guarantee the least unemployment and thus resolve related concerns such as crime and poverty? These are just some of the questions this paper would like to answer objectively.
Types of Unemployment
The two types of unemployment are voluntary and involuntary. The Involuntary unemployment has numerous theories: classical, cyclical, Marxian, structural, frictional, hidden, and long-term. Each type has an important factor(s) relevant to why people do not have and stay unemployed. Each may also give important insight as to how crimes flourish. People who usually fall under this category of unemployment are conformists as defined by Robert Merton in his Strain theory. He describes them as people who “accept society`s goals and the socially acceptable means of achieving them (e.g.: monetary success is gained through hard work). Conformists are mostly middle-class people in middle class jobs who have been able to access the opportunities in society such as a better education to achieve monetary success through hard work.” (Macionis & Gerber, 2011)
The Classical theory of unemployment suggests that the government intervenes especially during long recessions with the creation of jobs and offers higher wage rate in the hope of alleviating the crisis. This sudden demand and higher wage rate may trigger other workers to quit their jobs and flock to the newly created government sponsored jobs. This will then disrupt the equilibrium of the economic system causing more problems than solution. In management, this effect is known as the Tragedy of the Commons.
The Cyclical theory is similar to the Law of Supply and Demand in Economics: More job demands over less job opportunities translate to more problems. This theory also suggests that the root cause may be a decrease in money supply which may result to retrenchment and attrition. It also suggests that the unemployment may be fixed by letting the government run on deficit or deficit-spending.
The Marxian Theory claims that capitalism promotes unemployment by giving the workers the right to choose and bargain for the best jobs. It postulates that whenever there is capitalism, there will always be unemployment simply because people with better skills, knowledge, and expertise will take multiple jobs and demand from employers. It suggests the shift to socialist and communistic economic systems so that people will not choose and demand for any work they choose thus ending unemployment (Burdett, et. al., 2003).
Structural Unemployment is the result of the prolonged cyclical theory. When people`s skills and the available jobs do not meet and match (not using one`s skill will render it obsolete), this theory occurs. Sometimes, people may spend much time finding and getting a job. This gap between finding and actually getting a job is called frictional unemployment there are various reasons why the frictional theory happens but it could due to the combination of two or more theories.
There is also a hidden theory of unemployment which states that census and researches usually do not take into account all people without jobs. An example of this is the totalities of government dependents that rely on basic welfare are not included in the total number of unemployed. Whatever the reasons are, these may be highly political in nature which the government chooses not to divulge.
The final theory is the long-term unemployment which states that anyone who has been for a year or more falls under this category. There are many people who belong to this group such as early retirees, senior citizens, and dependents.
The Unemployment Rate and its Distribution
In a recent US survey conducted by the Labor Department, the registered unemployment rate rises in almost all ethnic groups with 13.6% for African Americans, 11% for Hispanics, 7.4% for white people, and an unchanged 5.2% for ASIANS. This was conducted in May 2013 (Chamlin &Cochran, 2000).
Comparing the gross national incomes of the same ethnic groups will reveal that there are major differences. These differences may also play significant roles in identifying and knowing if other factors at play in unemployment have direct or indirect connection to their gross national income.
“In 1999, median income of African American household was $27,910 compared to $44,366 of non-Hispanic whites. Approximately one-fourth of the African American population lives in poverty, a rate three times that of white Americans. In 2000, 19.1 percent of black population lived below poverty level as compared to 6.9 percent of white population. The unemployment gap between blacks and whites has grown. In 2000, the unemployment rate among African Americans was almost twice the rate for whites. The income gap between black and white families also continues to widen. Employed blacks earn only 77 percent of the wages of whites in comparable jobs, down from 82 percent in 1975. In 2000, Only 16.6 percent of 25 years and older blacks earned bachelor`s or higher degrees in contrast to 28.1 percent of whites.” (Goldstein, 2009)
The gap and disparities between ethnic groups show that Hispanics and African Americans do not get as much as other ethnics do especially the majority of the white Americans. This could possibly be a cause of violence or crime against each other.
Finding the Link among the Factors
Burdett, Wright, and Lagos published an article in the American Economic Review which claims that “two identical neighbourhoods could have different crime rates due to a variance in the wage rate.” Using the Efficiency Wage Theory, the conclusion of their study suggests that “firms should pay workers higher wages to decrease poor performance and lack of effort to deter crimes.”
In the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Bausman and Goe used the volatility of employment as the factor related to crime instead of unemployment. Their research shows that job losses in their subject 683 major metropolitan counties lead to an increase in crime rate. The figures are even higher according to their findings in situations when there are no alternative or available jobs following a job loss. The effect of the job loss is a spike in property crimes with which robbery belongs to. In a similar research conducted by Grant and Martinez, they included factors such as the `percentage receiving public assistance`, `incomes below poverty threshold`, and `generalized property crime rate potential` which all attribute to the spreading of crime to other nearby places.
In a 1992, Nobel Laureate Gary S. Becker wrote “The Economic Way of Looking At Life” which postulates the idea that “the motivation for criminal behaviour (for people with criminal instincts and are most likely to lose their jobs) is rational and by no means any different than anyone else`s decision making.” He clarified the significance of correlating and studying crime in relation with unemployment. In his defence, he claims that criminals will weigh in the benefits of illegal activities compared with working taking into consideration the severity of punishment versus the financial gains. Other considerations which he maintains directly influence the acts against others are: length and impact of punishment, training programs, police forces, schooling, and employment opportunities. In his conclusion, he wrote that “individuals willing to take risks will refrain from criminal activity if they have a higher uncertainty of punishment with an increase in the probability of conviction.”
Agreeing with Becker is a best-selling author named Steven D. Levitt. In Levitt`s
article “Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not,” he agrees with Becker that “improvements in labour market opportunities have a relevant impact on crime when there is a financial incentive to commit because one percent increase in the unemployment rate accounts for a one percent increase in property crimes,” On the other hand, he also wrote that “increased spending on police and prisons through state and local government budgets is where the economy has the most impact on crime.” In his second paper “Alternative Strategies for Identifying the Link between Unemployment and Crime,” he points out the importance of age on the unemployment-crime relationship and the fact that panel data delivers relatively consistent results on the impact of crime. Crimes cause unemployment and vice versa due to the difficulty of securing jobs for former offenders and the businesses` apprehension towards them.
“Unemployment indeed leads to increase in domestic violence and broken homes that result to the cyclical poverty and underdevelopment. The abject poverty leads to many social ills including many fathers in the country irresponsibly shirking their responsibilities as fathers culminating into more fatherless children in the society.
Interestingly, research had shown that the link between fatherless children and crime is so strong and overshadows most of the causes of crime including armed robbery and rape as we are currently experiencing in the country. For example, the following facts would buttress this point
80% of all children that exhibit behavioural disorders come from fatherless homes. Credit: US Centre for Disease Control. 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes according to the Bureau of the Census. 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes. 85% of youth sitting in prison grew out of fatherless homes in the case of Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992. According to the findings of the research, in fact, one can pick a social ill at random and will find that the correlation with fatherlessness is clear and direct.” (Baafi, 1998).
The Reasons behind the Connection
A careful analysis will reveal that crime can cause unemployment since no one would easily hire someone who has committed a serious offence. Similarly, unemployment can cause crimes for various reasons. One may be because the financial benefit is too high compared to the risk involved in perpetrating a crime. Another is that there is no-job-to-skill match especially in places where there is very high demand for jobs but there are very few available jobs so would-be workers are forced to commit a crime especially if the offender-to-police ratio is relatively low. Equally interesting is the possibility that people support and regard crime as real work rather than crime itself such as the case of Somali pirates. In all these scenarios, crime and unemployment seem to have a direct relationship.
Harorld Goldstein defined unemployment in his subject titled article as the “enforced idleness of wage earners who are able and willing to work but cannot find jobs.” Owing to this definition and the various theories of involuntary unemployment, we can easily point the reasons why crime and unemployment seem to chase each other.
First, voluntary unemployment is “forced idleness of wage earners.” This means although there are numerous jobs, the potential worker does not choose to work. It is the person`s exercise of freewill not to work. And if in the process, the would-be worker chooses to rob, steal, kill, or commit any form of crime because he is unemployed or owing to the alibi, scapegoat, or reason that he is unemployed, then logic follows that his voluntary unemployment is the cause of his crime. In this case, no amount of legislation or intervention is necessary except for possible training, education, or seclusion. In all these efforts, again, the person has his own freewill to either surrender a part of his freedom or to use it against the checking mechanisms in place.
The Classical theory`s relation to crime could just be when the government intervenes during crises and imposes measures which may trigger other problems resulting to panic, chaos, and crime. Similar to the case of Somalia, the unemployment along with the central government`s intervention caused the collapse of the entire system. With no funds to create livelihood and alleviate the needs of the people, the people decided voluntarily to employ themselves as pirates. The Somali case is special. It is one of merging of almost all the theories into one monstrous event a case of widespread unemployment and numerous heinous crime havens which transformed Somalia overnight. This is what Robert Merton`s Strain theory explained regarding people who “accept society`s goals, but reject socially acceptable means of achieving them.” So the Somali fathers did just that: accepted their responsibility as fathers and providers but rejected the social norms of how to “altruistically” achieve the responsibility. Their case also worsens escalating their action to “rebellion,” thus the government brands them as pirates and rebels (Macionis & Gerber, 2011).
The Cyclical theory follows the Law of Supply and Demand which states that when there is a high demand for jobs and the supply is relatively low, there will be a problem. This is what Bausman and Goe mentioned in their article that even if people have jobs yet there is a high demand for their current jobs, employers may use the demand for leverage to lower wage rates, demand more work output, speed up production, better service and performance, and multi-tasking, yet no possible increase in benefit(s) and compensation. The volatility of the employment may act as the trigger for chaos, retrenchment, or unemployment. In a chaotic environment, the chances of committing crime then escalates especially when there is little or no intervention or effort to help curb its activities.
The Marxian theory maintains that there is no other way to eliminate unemployment except for a change in the economic system. So as long as the economic model allows the workers to have a bargaining power, leverage, and control over the businesses, there is no way that unemployment will be resolved. Limiting or totally controlling the freedom and decisions of the people is the key (Burdett, et. al, 2003). When people cannot choose for themselves but only to be acted upon, then full employment can be achieved. In a sense, crimes, chaos, and crises are all but effects of capitalism. The people in a state regardless of their ethnicity will never be free from social and economic problems until they decided to change the very system at play. The only logical choices are communistic and socialist economic systems.
The Structural theory is merely an extension of the cyclical theory. Often this prolonged version of unemployment leads to inflation and economic instability. When there is economic instability, social disorder follows. When there is social disorder, crimes become rampart. During this time of crisis, a vicious cycle of crime and unemployment occur leaving families in poverty which at some point if not attended to with Keynesian principle of deficit-spending could lead to economic recession or even depression.
During recessions and depressions, the government may choose to hide the real unemployment and domestic violence figures. This approach is the hidden theory. It is propaganda to make sure that the people stay inside the “economic bubble.” Sometimes, state run, crony-owned, and government-supportive media help disseminate the propaganda to ensure market stability. However, with this knowledge, it is difficult to fully identify the true figures and extent of damage that unemployment and crimes have to the economy. The government may even deny this as it will shake the peace and order situation. If the figures remain low, perhaps they should be left alone. If the figures are high, act must be done and people lobby for support and transparency so other underlying problems can be addressed.
The Final theory are for people who voluntarily and legally ended their work thus entitling them for government support or are just purely dependents of society. This group usually joined the attrition band wagon by default (old age or retirement) and by physical or psychological reasons. They are entitled for full government support which incurs much expenses considering that the possibility of having or making them work is from little to the least. It is the only theory which will probably have the least worry of committing crime(s).
After carefully studying the details, definitions, processes, types, theories, and conditions set for unemployment, we can realize that there is a significant relationship between unemployment and crimes. The unemployment is evident in all places among all people in the world. The data show the discrepancies between incomes among ethnic groups along with the distributed rate of unemployment. The forces and theories at play show that the two influence each other vice versa. There are conditions when unemployment is the cause of crimes which could lead to further unemployment even after rehabilitation, correction, training and retraining, and integration. In the conclusion of one researcher, it reads: “there is significance in the relationship between unemployment and property crimes as well as increased expenditures on crime, and education. Violent crimes seem to have no statistical significance on the unemployment rate but public expenditures in all cases play an important role in explaining the decrease in unemployment. There is also a tradeoff between the lowest 25th percentile wage and crime, presuming that crime and unemployment can co-exist (Machin & Costas, 2004).”
Living in a state or environment where the wage rate, job availability, and personal security are based on ethnicity or by the colour of your skin can be a true test of character. The situation should not concern whether the people involved are Hispanic, Asians, African Americans or other ethnicities. In a modern society where man is supposed to be measured by his virtues, character, knowledge, and personal relationship with others, it is demoralizing to know that such inequality still exists. When there is bias, there will be inequality. When there is inequality, there will be unemployment. When there is unemployment, there will be chaos. When there is chaos, there will be crimes. Unemployment can lead to crimes and crimes can lead to more unemployment. The solution is to give everyone a fair share. Allow all to equally have a chance and establish a system which supports equality and transparency. This is the final solution even when people voluntarily choose not to work the system can make them do so if it is supported by all. In truth, when all supports the system, all will voluntarily work. The question then is in the people`s support for the system and not entirely about the system in place. So, going back to the title and question in finding if there is a relationship between unemployment and the rate of robberies among Hispanics and African Americans in the US, the answer is a resounding YES. There is, indeed, a significant relationship it even extends to all people in all places regardless of nationality, demographics, race, and religion.
Baafi, A. (1998). Unemployment is Contributed to Armed Robbery. Criminal Justice & Behavior. 14: 403-26.
Bausman, K. and Goe, R. (2004) An Examination of the Link Between Employment Volatility and the Spatial Distribution of Property Crime Rates. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology. 63 (3): 665-696.
Becker, G.S. (1992) The economic way of looking at life. Nobel Lecture. Stockholm:
The Nobel Foundation
Burdett, K., Lagos, R., and Wright, R. (2003). Crime, Inequality and Unemployment. American Economic Review. 93:1764-1777
Chamlin, M. and Cochran, J.K. (2000). Unemployment, Economic Theory, and Property Crime: A Note on Measurement. Journal of Quantitative Criminology. 16:4
Goldstein, H. (2009). Unemployment in the US. Encarta Encyclopedia. Microsoft Incorporated. USA.
Levitt, S. (2005). Alternative Strategies for Identifying the Link Between Unemployment and Crime. Journal of Quantitative Criminology. 17(4): 377-390
Levitt, S. (2001). Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 18(1):163-190
Machin, S. and Costas, M. (2004). Crime and Economic Incentives. Journal of Human Resources. 39:958-579
Macionis, J. and Gerber, L. (2011). Sociology 7th Ed. Toronto, Ontario: Pearson Canada Inc.

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