THE MYTH OF SOCIAL CLASS AND CRIME REVISITED: AN EXAMINATION OF CLASS AND ADULT CRIMINALITY*

Authors


  • *

    We wish to thank Robert Bursik, Jr., Charles Tittle, John Hagan, and a number of anonymous reviewers for their extremely helpful comments.

  • R. Gregory Dunaway is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work at Mississippi State University. He serves as Director of Sociology Graduate Studies and is also Coordinator of the Mississippi Crime and Justice Research Unit. His research interests include inequality and crime, rural crime, criminological theory, and criminal justice ideology.

  • Francis T. Cullen is the Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of Rethinking Crime and Deviance Theory, coauthor of Reaffirming Rehabilitation, Corporate Crime Under Attack, Criminological Theory, Criminology, and Combating Corporate Crime, and coeditor of Contemporary Criminological Theory, Criminological Theory, and Offender Rehabilitation. He has served as President of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and as Editor of Justice Quarterly and the Journal of Crime and Justice.

  • Velmer S. Burton, Jr., is Associate Provost, Graduate Studies and Research and Dean of the Graduate School. He is Coeditor of Contemporary Criminological Theory and has published manuscripts in criminology and criminal justice journals, including Criminology, Justice Quarterly, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Deviant Behavior, Crime and Delinquency, and the Journal of Criminal Justice.

  • T. David Evans is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. His current research interests include corporate crime, the social history of criminal justice policy, discretion and disparity in criminal charging, plea-bargaining, and sentencing.

Abstract

Although recent empirical research questions the conclusion that crime is highest in the lower class, this empirical literature is plagued by limited measures of social class or of crime and by a failure to study systematically the effect of social class on crime in the adult general population. The present work was undertaken in an attempt to rectify many of the inadequacies of the class-crime research. Self-report data were collected from a general population of adult residents in a large, midwestern city and were analyzed to assess the effects of a wide range of class measures on crime measures. The overall results produced from a sample of 555 adults demonstrated that regardless of how class or crime were measured, social class exerted little direct influence on adult criminality in the general population. Consistent with research findings from nonself-report studies, social class was related to criminal involvement for nonwhites.

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