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II. General Perspectives on Education and Crime
B. Educational Attainment
D. Street Smarts
IV. Education’s Impact on Crime
A. Education as Crime Prevention
B. The Connection Between Intelligence (IQ) and Crime
C. Education and Recidivism
V. Crime’s Impact on Education
A. Crime as a Barrier to Educational Opportunity
B. Crime’s Connection to High School Graduation
C. School Safety Issues
The purpose of this research paper is to provide an overview of the topic of education and crime. Although at first glance this appears to be a simple task, there is an inherent complexity to examining such a broad subject. There are many different perspectives from which a discussion of education and crime could develop. Criminologists might assume that a discussion of education and crime would comprise an overview of the impact that an individual’s education level may have on his or her criminal or antisocial behavior. Alternatively, parents might assume it is a discussion of the impact of school violence and crime on the safety and learning of their children, and legislatures might assume it to be a comparison of the monies spent on fighting crime in the United States versus those spent to improve American schools. A novice might be expecting all or none of these approaches. This research paper attempts to address all of these views, albeit briefly.
The research paper begins with an overview of the generally accepted views about the relationships between education and crime. Given the volume of research on this topic, researchers have generally agreed on several basic specifics that they believe reflect the true relationship between crime and education. Next, this research paper attempts to clarify several points that need to be addressed initially. First, several general terms are defined (e.g., education, educational attainment, intelligence, street smarts, and crime) and then discussed as they are used in the study of the connections between education and crime. Finally, a discussion of how these terms intermingle is offered.
In order to develop a comprehensive framework from which to examine the concept of education and crime, two overall perspectives are addressed: (1) education’s impact on crime and (2) crime’s impact on education. It is hoped that through a discussion of these two general perspectives readers can develop an appreciation for the complexity of such a broad research area.
The concept of education’s impact on crime is examined first. In this examination, education is in essence discussed as a definite inverse correlate between its attainment and criminal behavior; that is, as one (education) increases, the other (crime) decreases. A discussion of education’s preventative nature is also presented, with a focus on its repressive nature in regard to initial criminal behavior and eventual recidivism rates. This examination involves a brief discussion of the connection between intelligence (IQ) and crime.
Crime’s impact on education is also discussed as the second overall perspective in examining education and crime. In this discussion, crime is identified as a potential barrier to educational opportunity and attainment. Strong evidence supports the belief that criminal behavior and crime often block many people from beginning the educational process. That many others are prevented from educational attainment due to arrests, periods of incarceration, and past convictions/criminal histories also has strong empirical support. Finally, violence and safety issues in schools are briefly discussed in regard to the way they influence these subjects.
II. General Perspectives on Education and Crime
Although the topic of education and crime may seem straightforward, there are many different viewpoints from which it can be examined. Researchers have studied this topic from many different perspectives. As a result of this research, several connections between education and crime have been introduced into the literature and are widely accepted. The following are a few of the empirically supported beliefs about the connections between education and crime:
- A person’s lack of education often increases the likelihood that he or she will become involved in crime and antisocial behavior. The opposite is considered true as well: The more education an individual has, the increased likelihood that he or she will live a crime-free life.
- The lack of educational attainment generally decreases one’s future employment opportunities because of increasing hiring standards in society, thus leading to possible criminal behavior for those individuals who cannot obtain viable employment.
- The lack of education and educational attainment generally limits one’s IQ, thus making him or her more vulnerable to others for exploitation and potential secondary criminal involvement.
- The more educated a community is, the less crime it experiences.
- The more educated a person is, the less he or she fears crime, and the less it significantly affects his or her life.
- It is generally believed that increases in one’s criminal behavior decrease his or her ability (and motivation) to complete higher levels of education (i.e., dropping out of school, getting expelled).
- History has demonstrated that increases in crime rates will almost always drain valuable resources from a community’s educational needs and require that those resources be directed toward crime control efforts.
- History has also shown that an increase in local neighborhood crime very often decreases the effectiveness of local schools’ educational programs and even student attendance.
- African Americans and Hispanics, overall, have less educational attainment than other racial groups. They also have a higher dropout rate than other racial groups. African Americans and Hispanics who drop out of school have a much higher rate of incarceration than those who do not. Research has empirically supported the theory that African Americans and Hispanics have higher rates of criminal behavior, and many scholars argue that there is a definite correlation between race and crime.
- On a practical level, one need only look at the fact that on days when school is in session, the level of property crime committed by juveniles decreases drastically.
Given these findings, it is difficult for many people to believe that, given that the United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the industrialized world, its rate of spending on educational systems is among the lowest. Many consider this to be one of the major catalysts for the ongoing increases in delinquent and violent behavior in America.
To understand the possible connections and correlations between education and crime, one must first have an understanding of the essential parts of this discussion. These essential parts are actually definitions of several basic terms that people often use without giving much thought to their proper connotation. These terms may seem universally understood, but, as with many seemingly basic concepts, they have many different interpretations. In the sections that follow, definitions are provided for several key terms: education, educational attainment, intelligence, street smarts, and crime.
The word education encompasses both the teaching and instruction and the learning of knowledge and information. This could involve the learning of proper social conduct and/or the absorption of technical competency. Simply put, education is one’s ability to know something and his or her ability to then do something with this information. It very often focuses on the development of one’s skills to work effectively in various trades or professions. It also involves the development of one’s mental capacity, moral development, and global understanding.
Formal education consists of methodical instruction, teaching, and training by professional teachers, instructors, trainers, and professors, whereas informal education generally consists of instruction from parents, families, peers, or social interactions. The former consists of the application of pedagogy (i.e., strategies and/or styles of instruction) and the development of curricula (i.e., a set of instructional activities to offer instruction), whereas the latter consists of the social learning that a person gains from interactions with his or her intimate peer groups.
In evaluations of the topic of education and crime, education is most often viewed as something that one is given, has, or accepts, that influences his or her future behavior; that is, education is something that changes how a person views himself or herself and his or her environment. Education is generally viewed as a positive influence on one’s behavior and life. It is widely accepted that the more education a person has, the more social that person’s behavior will be, and the more opportunities he or she will have; he or she ultimately will have a better quality of life. A basic assumption in the field of criminology is that the higher a quality of life one experiences, the less likely he or she will be motivated to be involved in criminal or antisocial behavior.
B. Educational Attainment
Educational attainment is generally viewed as a measure of the amount of education a person has completed at any given point in his or her life. This usually involves a listing of the highest level of education a person has successfully completed (e.g., high school diploma, college degree). The term also can refer to any other type of technical learning that one may have, such as a technical certification or professional license.
In discussions of education and crime, educational attainment often is seen as an accomplishment that is believed to have a positive immediate or long-term impact on a person’s prosocial behavior and success in life. The general view is that higher levels of educational attainment allow people more options for higher levels of employment. In turn, higher levels of employment generally lead to more income. The logic in this line of thinking is that the more income one has, the less likely he or she will be to seek criminal behavior or be interested in antisocial behavior.
Intelligence (also often referred to as intellect) is an all encompassing term used to describe the capacity of one’s mind and its associated abilities, including such human capabilities as the ability to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn.
There are, of course, many ways to define intelligence. This is especially true when one is applying this trait to animal behavior, or even to plants. Some scholars argue that the concept of intelligence also includes such traits as creativity, personality, character, knowledge, and/or wisdom. Some have also argued that traditional measures of intelligence such as IQ tests, for example, are inadequate, because people can demonstrate intelligence in many ways. Some arguments claim that people can demonstrate their intelligence in eight different ways: (1) linguistic intelligence (“word smart”), (2) logical–mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”), (3) spatial intelligence (“picture smart”), (4) bodily– kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”), (5) musical intelligence (“music smart”), (6) interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”), (7) intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”), and (8) naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”).
In examinations of education and crime, intelligence often takes on several interesting perspectives. Some people argue that extremely high and extremely low levels of intelligence often lead to criminal and antisocial behavior. Individuals with very high levels of intelligence can use their intellect to mastermind large criminal efforts, and those with very low levels of intelligence are victimized and often the pawns of these more highly educated individuals. Higher levels of intellect are often found in people who are involved in organized and white-collar crime (e.g., embezzlement), whereas lower levels of intellect are often found in disorganized and blue-collar crime (e.g., street crime).
D. Street Smarts
Although street smarts is not a very technical or academic term (some people consider it to be a slang term), many use it to describe the unique abilities possessed by many individuals. It often is used to describe a person who does not have much formal education (i.e., educational attainment), or a great deal of mental capacity or ability (i.e., intelligence), but who has a great or cunning ability to survive in almost any environment (especially in dangerous ones). The skills and abilities often demonstrated by people who have street smarts are things such as a unique ability to read others’ body language and behavior. Such individuals also have the ability to understand the complexities of human behavior, drives, and motivations.Very often, these abilities are developed by people who need to survive in impoverished and dangerous neighborhoods that provide very little assistance or support to their inhabitants. Some people also call these skills common sense, that is, the ability to figure out what works and what does not work in any given situation without any formal instruction or study.
In examinations of education and crime, street smarts often are viewed as behaviors or abilities that lead a person toward criminal or antisocial behavior. Much of this view originates from the belief that most crime is street-level, or blue-collar crime; thus, it is activity most often engaged in by people living on the street who are either unemployed or employed in blue-collar positions. Many people would argue that common sense is something possessed by most law-abiding citizens but that street smarts are possessed only by the so-called criminal element.
Crime is most often defined as any breach of an established rule, regulation, or law committed by someone for whom a punishment may ultimately be prescribed by some governing authority or law enforcement body. Crime is also often defined as any deviant behavior that violates prevailing norms, specifically, cultural standards prescribing how humans ought to behave normally.
Academics often approach this topic through efforts to identify the complex realities surrounding the concept of crime. They seek to understand how changing social, political, psychological, and economic conditions may affect the current definitions of crime. Criminologists understand that this will affect the form of the legal, law enforcement, and penal responses made by any given state.
There are many different ways to classify crimes. A very basic method is to separate them into two types: (1) mala prohibita and (2) mala in se. Mala prohibita (“evil prohibited”) crimes are those that are illegal because legislatures label and identify them as such. These are crimes such as seat belt laws, helmet laws, or gambling laws. The other type of crime is labeled mala in se (“evil in itself ”). These acts, such as murder and sexual assault, are almost universally deemed harmful and negative.
In examinations of education and crime, crime often is viewed as acts committed by people who lack education; lack any educational attainment; and, most often, lack any higher level of intelligence. However, crime is a much more complex human experience and behavior than this view represents.
IV. Education’s Impact on Crime
The topic of education and crime can be approached from many different perspectives, so a framework for a basic understanding must be developed. The first area of discussion is education’s impact on crime and criminal behavior. Although this issue is debatable, there is an overwhelming consensus among public officials, academics, teachers, and parents that postsecondary education is one of the most successful and cost-effective methods of preventing crime. Much of this consensus has been derived from the volumes of empirical research that has examined educational attainment as it relates to crime trends and public safety. Comparisons of state-level education data and crime and incarceration rates have consistently supported the fact that states that have focused the most on education (in general, financial support) tend to have lower rates of violent crime and incarceration. Although education can never be viewed as a “cure all” or magic bullet that will guarantee reductions in criminal activity or crime rates, research suggests that increased investments in quality education can have a positive public safety benefit.
A. Education as Crime Prevention
One of the most dominant ideas under the umbrella concept of education’s impact on crime is the belief that a reduction in crime can most often be achieved by increased crime prevention and that the most effective form of crime prevention is achieved through education. Most people would argue that education can be an important element in preventing individuals from engaging in criminal behavior. Given the previous discussions in this research paper, increased levels of education generally lead to many other characteristics that are viewed as positive correlates of lessening one’s criminal or antisocial behavior.
The literature generally offers two explanations for the preventive force of education on crime and antisocial behavior. The first is that education may change individuals’ preferences (and, in turn, their breadth of choices). The second explanation is that education contributes to a lower time preference (i.e., learning the consequences of one’s actions often make that individual postpone the direct satisfaction of needs). Some scholars argue that education leads to a lower time preference for consumption in the present (teaching one the potential negative aspects of immediate gratification) and a higher time preference for consumption in the future (teaching one the benefits of working in the present to prepare for the future).
Many researchers argue that formal education (i.e., educational attainment) has a very strong impact on teaching students (through the study of history, sociology, and other subjects) on which they should focus more of their attention in the future. Formal schooling and instruction can communicate images of the situations and difficulties of adult life, which are inevitable future issues for all adolescents. Thus, educated people should be more productive at reducing the remoteness of future pleasures.
Many researchers also argue that the more education an individual has, the more heavily he or she will weigh the future consequences (i.e., punishment) of his or her current criminal or antisocial actions. If more education leads individuals to understand the benefit of delayed gratification, then people with a higher education should be deterred from committing criminal acts. It is believed that higher levels of education will make the immediate gratification of an individual’s preferences and desires through criminal activities less important.
Most empirical studies have addressed the relationship between education and crime. Some have found that adolescents who are involved in paid employment or attend K–12 education are less likely to engage in criminal behavior. This suggests that a reduction in criminal behavior contributes largely to the social rate of return for the monies spent on education in the United States. There is much debate on the correlation between the money spent on education and the quality of education and its resultant overall impact on criminal behavior.
Not all studies find that more highly educated people are less likely to engage in criminal behavior, however. Some researchers argue that a country’s average education level does not necessarily have a statistically significant effect on the number of violent crimes (e.g., homicides and robberies). As discussed earlier, many have also argued that increased levels of education actually facilitate the criminal behavior in some individuals because of their increased abilities and knowledge (e.g., computer fraud, pyramid schemes).
The following is a list of empirically supported findings about the connections between crime prevention and education:
- Most studies have found that graduation rates are generally associated with positive public safety outcomes and lower crime rates for communities.
- States with higher levels of educational attainment also have crime rates lower than the national average.
- States with higher college enrollment rates experience lower violent crime rates than states with lower college enrollment rates.
- States that make more significant monetary investments in higher education experience more positive public safety outcomes and lower crime rates.
- The risk of incarceration, higher violent crime rates, and low educational attainment are concentrated among communities of color, whose members are more likely to suffer from barriers to educational opportunities.
- Disparities in educational opportunities contribute to a situation in which communities of color experience less educational attainment than whites, are more likely to be incarcerated, and are more likely to face higher violent crime rates.
For most people, the connection between education and crime prevention is easy to see. Criminologists have spent centuries trying to determine the causes of criminal and antisocial behavior. A central component that emerges over and over is the idea of individual motivation and desire. Human motivation and desire are very complex natural occurrences, and they are difficult to understand, although most people would argue that it is easy to understand the connection between these traits and criminal behavior.
B. The Connection Between Intelligence (IQ) and Crime
Many trends have been supported by contemporary research that has examined possible connections between education and criminal behavior. That levels of education (higher and lower) are significant in the manifestation of criminal behavior has received empirical support, as has the notion that individuals with learning disabilities (and thus with lower education, intelligence, and coping skills) are more prone to violent behavior.
The major reason for these connections is the interrelated causal pattern of events that occur in learning, with education at the center. School achievement is generally predictive of prosocial behavior, designated as upholding the moral values of a society. Most people would argue that school achievement predicts prosocial behavior because in most societies academic achievement is interrelated with several other variables, such as financial success, high self-esteem, and an internal locus of control. This particular model may account for the reasoning behind the general idea that individuals with a high IQ generally have fewer tendencies for criminal behavior than individuals with a low IQ.
Investigations of the connection between criminal behavior and IQ often are based on the general hypothesis that having a higher IQ results in easier achievement in school. As stated earlier, doing well academically is associated with several societal factors as well. Individuals with a lower IQ may not succeed as much academically, which would result in lower self-esteem and not as much financial success, resulting in an increased disposition toward criminal behavior. This would seem to highlight the importance of stressing education and addressing issues of learning disabilities at an early age to prevent, or at least mitigate, these negative attributes, thus preventing future criminal behavior and the resulting increased crime rates.
The connection between one’s intelligence level and his or her criminal behavior is a very complicated and controversial area. Empirical research most often finds that IQ and crime are actually negatively correlated; that is, as one increases, the other decreases. Explanations for this generally fall into three approaches: (1) IQ and crime are spuriously, not causally, correlated; (2) low IQ increases criminal behavior; and (3) criminal behavior actually decreases IQ.
There are also popular arguments against IQ as a cause of crime. Some scholars argue that standardized IQ tests measure only middle-class knowledge and values instead of innate human intelligence. As a result, the fact that most minority groups and impoverished populations score lower on IQ tests simply reflects their diverse cultural backgrounds. These same groups also commit proportionately more crime because they suffer structural disadvantages, such as poverty and discrimination. Consequently, the same people who score low on IQ tests also tend to commit more crime, and so IQ and crime are empirically correlated. Thus, this correlation is not causal but reflects only culturally biased testing of intelligence (see Gardner, 1993).
A variation of this argument holds that the structural disadvantages that increase crime rates also reduce educational opportunities, thus lessening individuals’ ability and motivation to score well on IQ tests. Many researchers argue that the IQ–crime correlation occurs only because both are rooted in structural disadvantage, which, in statistical terms, represents a spurious correlation at best. Although these discrimination-type hypotheses have wide appeal, they have received fairly little support in empirical studies, because IQ and crime are significantly correlated within race and class groups as well as when one statistically controls for race, class, test-taking ability, and test-taking motivation.
Another argument against IQ as a cause of crime holds that schoolteachers and administrators treat students differently according to their perceptions of the students’ intelligence, thus giving negative labels and fewer educational opportunities to those whom they see as less intelligent. These labels and constrained opportunities in turn produce feelings of alienation and resentment that lead students toward delinquent peers and criminal behavior. As such, society’s reaction to intelligence, and not any property of intelligence itself, increases criminal behavior. Unfortunately, few studies have adequately tested this labeling-type hypothesis (i.e., that deviance is derived from the labeling and mistreatment of certain individuals).
C. Education and Recidivism
Given the various aspects of this discussion, many people argue that the U.S. government should resume its long-standing policy of releasing a portion of Pell Grants (student educational grants) and other types of financial aid to qualified incarcerated individuals. They argue that the benefits of such a practice (reductions in recidivism rates) will always far outweigh the public protests against such efforts (arguing that this reduces the funds available to nonincarcerated individuals).
The focus of the pro-grant arguments is that resuming this policy would drastically decrease rates of recidivism and save individual states millions of dollars each year. Again, there seems to be overwhelming consensus among many people that postsecondary education is the most successful and cost-effective method of preventing crime. However, this often becomes controversial when one starts applying these ideas to people who have already committed criminal acts. More than 1.5 million individuals are housed in adult correctional facilities in the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice generally portrays offenders as impoverished and uneducated prior to incarceration. Inside American prisons, many adult inmates are illiterate, and many more are functionally illiterate.
Most researchers would argue that social, psychological, and demographic factors correlate strongly with recidivism. Most persons are released from prison into communities unskilled, undereducated, and highly likely to become reinvolved in crime. Rates of recidivism in the United States are extraordinarily high. Although prison-based education has been found to be the single most effective tool for lowering recidivism, today these programs are almost nonexistent. Many would also argue that prison education is far more effective at reducing recidivism than are boot camps, shock incarceration, or vocational training.
In response to the American public’s growing fear of crime and the call for more punitive measures to combat such fear, many legislators and policymakers have promoted building more prisons, enacting harsher sentencing legislation, and eliminating various programs inside prisons and jails. With rearrest rates increasing almost daily, it is clear that incarceration alone is not working in the United States. In fact, the “get tough” philosophy (originating in the mid-1980s), which pushes for more incarceration, punishment, and limitations of the activities available to prisoners, has often resulted in the elimination of strategies and programs that seek to prevent or reduce crime. As has been discussed repeatedly in this research paper, research has consistently shown that quality education is one of the most effective forms of crime prevention and that educational skills can help deter young people from committing criminal acts as well as greatly decrease the likelihood that people will return to crime after release from prison.
Despite this evidence of their extraordinary effectiveness, educational programs in correctional facilities have in many cases been completely eliminated. As of 2008, more than 1.6 million individuals were housed in adult correctional facilities in the United States, and at least 99,682 juveniles are in custody. The majority of these individuals will be released into communities unskilled, undereducated, and highly likely to become reinvolved in criminal activity. With so many ex-offenders returning to prison, it would seem clear that the punitive, incarceration-based approach to crime prevention has not worked as a basis for criminal justice policy in America. Therefore, it should not be surprising that so many people argue that the country needs to promote policies and procedures that are successful. Education, particularly at the college level, can afford individuals with the opportunities to achieve and maintain productive and crime-free lives and help to create safer communities for all.
V. Crime’s Impact on Education
A second overall perspective on the concept of education and crime is to examine the impact of crime on education. As with education’s impact on crime, crime’s impact on education has several directions from which it can be approached. The following sections discuss crime as a barrier to educational opportunity and attainment as well as briefly consider school safety issues.
A. Crime as a Barrier to Educational Opportunity
One of the major areas in which crime’s impact on education can be found is in how crime very often serves as a barrier to educational opportunity for many people. This barrier status can appear from two directions: (1) the negative mobility patterns for some groups in terms of traditional and nontraditional criteria for upward movement and educational achievement and (2) individuals’ lack of opportunity for educational attainment due to their own criminal behavior (e.g., incarceration, dropping out of school, and expulsions).
For many people, going to college or achieving higher levels of education is an unrealistic goal because of financial constraints or living conditions; instead, daily survival is of utmost concern. Many of these individuals have had to drop out of school at an early age to help support their families and/or take care of younger siblings; for others, their own criminal behavior became a barrier to their future educational attainment. Incarcerated individuals obviously have very few opportunities (if any) above remedial instruction that generally leads to a GED. Others, because of their behavior, have been forced out of their local schools by suspensions and/or expulsions. As state budgets become more and more restrictive, educational programs in general have been eliminated or greatly decreased.
B. Crime’s Connection to High School Graduation
As stated previously, many individuals are forced to drop out of traditional K–12 educational programs because of their own criminal or delinquent behavior. These individuals usually start off with in-school suspensions, which evolve into out-of-school suspensions and, ultimately, to expulsions. In most states where the compulsory education age is 16, these individuals often find themselves forced to attend alternative educational programs. Research has supported the belief that the majority of these youth do not seek any postsecondary educational opportunities; many do not finish high school or GED programs.
Most, if not all, of the typical criminal or delinquent school behaviors, such as skipping school, drug use, violent behavior, and engaging in property crime, correlate strongly with a lack of high school graduation. Many educational systems across the United States have adopted a zero-tolerance policy stance when it comes to any type of negative student behavior. The primary result of these policies is expulsion from school of the delinquent child, and the primary result of most expulsions is that the individual never returns to school. Thus, lacking the proper educational attainment (and, possibly, intellect), he or she is not able to be competitive in most job markets. As stated earlier, a lack of employment is a major factor in an individual’s decision to turn to criminal behavior to meet his or her financial needs.
C. School Safety Issues
A final area of discussion is the very practical impact that crime can have on education. The scope of this research paper does not allow a full examination of the issues related to school violence and its results, but it would be improper not to mention this issue at least briefly. Readers would be well advised to seek further information about the various impacts of school violence on students and teachers. There are volumes of research dealing with the most common forms of school violence: sexual harassment and bullying. These two issues alone, many people would argue, are responsible for a great deal of high school dropouts, assaults, and even school shootings.
School safety and the proper protection of students are very strongly connected to crime. The more crime a school has, the less safe the students are going to feel, and the less secure they feel, the less they will learn. When students have to worry about their safety on a daily basis at a school, the academic experiences very often get left behind. Most people would agree that learning becomes secondary very quickly when a child has to worry more about death then failure in the classroom.
Many of the connections that crime has with K–12 education relate to incidents that occur between students. There is a significant problem with bullying and sexual harassment on the campuses of many American schools. These acts, although not obviously violent, many times go unnoticed and can have an extremely negative impact on the victims. As previously stated, such treatment has been connected to high dropout rates, failing grades, and even juvenile suicides.
It is extremely difficult to argue against the philosophy that substantial savings on the social costs of crime could be obtained by investing in education. Empirical research repeatedly has supported the theory that the likelihood of a person committing a criminal act decreases with years of education, although research also has found that the probability of committing some types of acts (e.g., tax fraud and embezzlement) actually increases with years of education.
It is also interesting to find that more highly educated people very often have more permissive attitudes and social norms toward criminal behavior. One possible reason for this is that they are confronted less frequently with criminality and are less likely to be victims of a violent crime. It is a known fact that criminality tends to be higher in areas where less-educated people live. A second reason for more permissive attitudes and social norms toward criminality might be that more highly educated people have a more liberal worldview in general. It also is a known fact that people with higher education generally earn more than less educated people and thus have a better, and safer, quality of life.
The potential benefits of, and access to, certain types of criminal behavior simply increase as one’s earnings increase. Activities such as money laundering and insider trading often do not concern people who have no or very little funds. A second explanation is that more highly educated people are simply more knowledgeable and more informed about the possibilities of committing certain types of white-collar crimes. Thus, criminologists often point out that the key to white-collar or upper class criminal behavior is access (i.e., to funds, to inside information).
This is also true with blue-collar types of criminal behavior (e.g., shoplifting, vandalism, and violent street crimes). Research has supported the realization that most often these types of acts are committed by people with lower levels of education. One explanation is that people with less education have a “higher time discount”—that they see the future and calculate it differently than do people with more education. Moreover, they very often take into account the future consequences of their actions (punishment and sentencing) less than more highly educated people.
A final few notes on this subject should be pointed out from the discussion earlier about views on time consumption. It is argued that education leads to a lower time preference for consumption in the present and a higher time preference for consumption in the future and that, in turn, education very often teaches people to control their emotions (restraint and self-control). Most scholars hope that higher education attainment will lead to more intelligence, which will lead to more understanding of the consequences of one’s actions, whether positive or negative.
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