High Violent Crime Rates in USA

Social disorganization theory that is a result of a study by Shaw, Clifford, and McKay (1942), states that neighborhoods with high poverty rates have big populations and informal social structures that in turn make it difficult to maintain social order in a society. This is very much evident in the USA compared to other countries with lower crime rates because of unequal wealth distribution between the haves and the have nots in society. Most of the American population lives in poor neighborhoods which record the highest crime rates compared to the high-class neighborhoods.

The subcultural theory that is focused on small cultural groups breaking away from the main cultural group to form their own that have different values and meanings about life from the rest was observed by Cohen and Albert (1955). The people in these groups come from the poorer parts of society hence forming social norms that are of a deviant subculture. They will take up illegal ways that offer better economic benefits than the available low-paying jobs. This is evident because of racial differences in America which has a diverse racial heritage compared to other countries with lower crime rates.

Strain theory that is concerned with social class as noted by Merton (1957) discovered that a society has the main culture and other subcultures. He noted that if a society offered unequal opportunities to some of its members compared to others is preventing some people from realizing their dreams they would result in illegal means to realize them. In America, the whites, who form the major culture, are much better off than the other cultures that form subcultures.

Mead (1934) noted a relationship between a powerful country, its media, and its ruling elite class on one hand, and the powerless groups on the other hand coming up with a theory called the Symbolic Interactions. He observed the elite group could to some extent impose their meanings on the latter group hence they were able to call them criminals. These groups would then take up the label and become indulged in criminal activities as indicated by the elite group.

Felson and Cohen (1994) came up with the Routine activity theory that explains a crime in terms of the opportunities that occur in everyday life enabling a crime to take place. A criminal opportunity presented itself when a number of conditions where available. The conditions which had to converge in both time and place included a motivated offender, a suitable victim, and a guardian.

Social ecology studies is a theory developed by Morenoff, Jeffery, et. al (2001) who found that high crime rates correlated with high rates of poverty and disorderly behavior, unoccupied buildings, and other signs of community deterioration. As people migrate from deteriorating neighborhoods, members of society who are disadvantaged economically may remain behind and end up creating a concentration effect. This effect will cause these neighborhoods to become isolated and cut off from mainstream society and end up prone to violence.

A Trait theory developed by Rhodes and Athens (2000) noted how brutality by parents or peers that usually occurred in childhood resulted in violent crimes in adulthood. Due to high rates of drug abuse and single parentage in American society, many people from such backgrounds end up in violent crimes.


Cohen, Albert K. (1955). Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang, Glencoe. IL: Free Press.

Cohen, Lawrence, and Marcus, Felson (1994). “Social Change and Crime Rate Trends”. American Sociological Review, 44: 588.

Mead, H. G. (1934). Mind, self & society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Morenoff, Jeffrey, Robert Sampson, Stephen Raudenbush (2001). “Neighborhood Inequality, Collective Efficacy and the Spatial Dynamics of Urban Violence”. Criminology 39: p. 517–60.

Robert, Merton. (1968). Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press.

Shaw, Clifford R. & McKay, Henry D. (1942). Juvenile Delinquency in Urban Areas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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