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The recent rise in crime incidents highlights the social problem of youth crime in the Western countries, including the United States. While the rise in crime rates can be attributed to many factors, the broader economic and social forces shape youth crime in these countries. In particular, factors such as social inequality, poverty, and social exclusion influence, directly or indirectly, most of the criminal activities and youth violence.
In the same context, White and Cunneen in the chapter, ‘Social Class, Youth Crime and Justice’ discuss these social problems and their implications for policy. The discussion in the chapter revolves around two main issues: the impact of social class on youth criminalization and the impact of globalization on social inequality.
The authors argue that the prevailing social and economic structures are creating an “impoverished and socially disadvantaged” youth contributing to a rise in crime (White, and Cunneen 17). A connection between social exclusion, economic inequality and the rise in crime is established in this chapter. The problem of social exclusion and economic inequality, influence the youth criminal tendencies.
Social Class and Crime Tendencies
The chapter provides an analysis on how social classes arise among the youthful population. Most importantly, it enhances our understanding of how social stratification arises in a political, social and economic context especially with regard to the formulation of legislations and distribution of resources.
This entrenches class exclusion in two ways; economically and through biased criminalization practices. The class issue among the youth depends highly on resource availability at family or community level. The resources allow the family or community to provide adequate social support to the young people, which in turn reduce their tendency to engage in crime.
In particular, resource availability determines the youth lifestyles, their level of education and their type of employment. However, the state, the market and the social networks influence resource availability hence their impact on social class. Most notable is their impact on youth employment. Most often, the problem of youth unemployment breeds other social problems especially crime. The prevalent political and economic factors lead to increased economic polarization between the rich and the poor.
As a result, most communities are increasingly becoming impoverished characterized by high unemployment rates among the young people (White, and Cunneen 19). The current restructuring in the labor market coupled with an economic slowdown has had devastating effects on employment opportunities that increase youth crime.
The chapter examines the relationship between economic inequality and criminal tendencies among the youth in industrialized nations. This helps to understand the reason why violent crimes are committed by youth from poor economic backgrounds or minority communities.
Consequently, justice system screening of the young people emphasizes on economic and social characteristics of the offender ethnic community. In light of this, the authors argue that criminal tendency in young people is not only dependent on prevalent economic and social inequalities but also on the processes of criminalization of marginalized youth by the state agencies (White, and Cunneen 22).
State intervention through social support programs tends to be disproportionate, which has a damaging effect on marginalized groups. This entrenches the practice of social exclusion among economically disadvantaged youth.
Social Aspects of Youth Offending
The authors identify two aspects of offending among the youth in the chapter: unemployment and poverty. The authors argue that for a proper understanding of the extent of offending in a particular location, the analysis of the two social aspects is crucial.
Further, the authors explain that youthful offending is a result of the interplay of social factors specific to a social group such as unemployment or inequality. Instead, factors such as societal influence on youth behavior and demographic factors such as the high number of unemployed youth determine the patterns of youthful offending in a particular community.
In particular, a high number of unemployed youth in a particular geographic location entrenches social exclusion. In addition, certain neighborhoods, characterized by high unemployment and poor housing and perceived as crime prone, frequently face repressive government interventions (White, and Cunneen 24).
Additionally, crime-prone neighborhoods influence the tendency of the young people to engage in offending behavior. In this regard, community context influences the social exclusion and criminalization of disadvantaged youth.
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The chapter also discusses the negative perception of the marginalized groups as being morally corrupt especially by the criminal justice agencies.
The young people from low economic and social classes are perceived as crime prone and deserve reformation. As a result, they face stiff coercive state interventions, which serve to reinforce the aspects of social inequality. The authors also argue that criminalization and state coercive actions often involve some form of geographical segregation. This group faces repressive interventions to deter antisocial behavior instead of social support interventions.
The authors highlight the implications of social exclusion on social identity, among the youth. Marginalization of the youth based on economic and social factors leads to disintegration of social connections that lead to loss of social identity. Lack of resources and prevalent criminalization affects the social networks.
The high youth unemployment coupled by exclusion from mainstream economic activity means that the youth cannot engage in any legal consumptive activities. Consequently, the youth engage in antisocial alternative economic activities, which lead to loss of social identity.
Further, the authors explain the implications of social exclusion on social policy. They single out the concentration of the economically disadvantaged in one location as responsible for high crime rates in these neighborhoods. Even in times of restructuring in the labor market or economic recessions, the ethnic minority face the worst effects through job losses and deterioration of basic infrastructure and amenities (White, and Cunneen 25). Consequently, the neighborhood develops a poor reputation including that of a high zone.
For the youth in these neighborhoods, opportunities become increasingly limited. This contributes to the rise in crime and illegal economic activities.
In my opinion, understanding of this chapter is particularly relevant to criminology in many ways. In particular, the relationship between social exclusion and crime is essential in management of crime among the youth. Intervention efforts should focus on enhancing economic equality and creating employment opportunities to mitigate the effects of social exclusion.
In addition, misperceptions and criminalization by intervention agencies only serve to increase criminal tendencies and anti-social behaviors among the youth. In my view, therefore, interventions should focus on social support to improve the youth’s economic welfare as well as reduce social exclusion.
The chapter mainly highlights the class issue among the young people and the relevance of the state intervention policies. In essence, the economic structures in industrialized economies propagate social exclusion of minorities. Additionally, the state support efforts often involve criminalization and misperceptions, which advances social inequality and exclusion of youth from poor neighborhoods. This serves to increase crime as the young people lack employment or opportunities to advance themselves.
White, Rob, and Cunneen, Chris. “Social Class, Youth Crime and Justice.” In Barry
Goldson and John Muncie, (Ed.), Youth Crime and Justice. London: Sage publications, 2006.