November 23, 2014

Dispelling the ‘Poverty Causes Crime’ Myth

“It is not material poverty that causes violent crime, but poor character.”

By Dennis Prager

My paternal grandparents were extremely poor immigrants from Russia. They lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn where they raised four children, none of whom, of course, ever had their own room. Moreover, my grandfather was a tailor, and as such made little during normal years, and next to nothing during the Great Depression.

They were considerably poorer than the vast majority of Americans who lived below the poverty line as it existed when I was in college and graduate school. And they would have regarded most of those designated poor today as middle class, if not rich by the standards of their day.

That is worth remembering whenever an American claims that violent crime in America is caused by poverty. The poor who commit murder, rape and robbery are not only not starving, they have far more material things than the word “poverty” suggests.

According to the U.S Department of Energy’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey for 2005 (the last year I could find in detail – but it doesn’t matter what year because those who say that poverty causes crime have said it for a hundred years and continue to say it), among all poor households:

Over 99 percent have a refrigerator, television, and stove or oven. Eighty-one percent have a microwave; 75 percent have air conditioning; 67 percent have a second TV; 64 percent have a clothes washer; 38 percent have a personal computer.

As for homelessness, one-half of one percent living under the poverty line have lost their homes and live in shelters.

Seventy-five percent of the poor have a car or truck. Only 10 percent live in mobile homes or trailers, half live in detached single-family houses or townhouses, and 40 percent live in apartments. Forty-two percent of all poor households own their home, the average of which is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage and a porch or patio.

According to a recent Census Bureau report, 80.9 percent of households below the poverty level have cellphones.

When the left talks about the poor, they don’t mention these statistics because what matters to the left is inequality, not poverty.

But that is another subject. Our subject is the question: Given these statistics, why do the poor who commit violent crime do so? Clearly it is not because they lack the basic necessities of life.

Now I didn’t know any of these statistics back in college and graduate school. So how did I know that “poverty causes crime” was a lie?

I thought about my grandparents, and I could not imagine my grandfather robbing anyone, let alone raping or murdering.

Why not? Because it was unimaginable. They were people whose values rendered such behaviors all but impossible.

But there was another reason.

I was as certain as one could be that if I were poor in America, I wouldn’t rob, rape or murder.

Which leads me to wonder about people who believe that “poverty causes crime.”

When people say this, there are only two possibilities. One is that, on some level of consciousness, they think that if they were poor, they would commit violent crimes. My hunch is that this is often the case. Just as the whites who say all whites are racist are obviously speaking about themselves, those who claim that poverty leads to violence may well be speaking about themselves, too.

The other possibility is that they are not speaking about themselves, in which case they would have to admit that poor Americans who rob, rape or murder are morally inferior to themselves.

Which, of course, happens to be true. People (of any income level) who rob, rape and murder do so because they lack a functioning conscience and moral self-control. It is not material poverty that causes violent crime, but poor character. But the “poverty causes crime” advocates refuse to acknowledge this because such an acknowledgment blames criminals – rather than American society – for poor peoples’ violent crimes.

And that they won’t admit. Because once they do, they will have begun the journey toward affirming conservatism and Judeo-Christian values, both of which are rooted in the belief that values, not economics, determine moral behavior.

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2022 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.