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White-Collar Crimes Causes Essay

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Updated: Oct 11th, 2020

White-collar crime and its roots have been subjected to extensive research and debate; however, fewer people pay attention to it compared to violent crime, which currently captures national news and is the subject of television shows. The society’s attitude towards white-collar crime is different: there is some degree of fascination while in the broader sense it is merely uninteresting (Olejarz, 2016). In this paper, two theories of white-collar crime will be discussed. The first theory will focus on the individual perspective of white-collar crime causes explored by Watt (2012) while the second theory will focus on the environmental perspective studied by Pontell and Geis (2013).

Individual Perspective

An individual perspective that explains why white-collar crime occurs is associated with the role that personality can play (Watt, 2012). According to the research conducted by Watt (2012), white-collar crime is directly linked to self-control, which is an individual characteristic that allows individuals to resist any type of benefit or gratification that crimes can offer. Therefore, an individual perspective on causes of white-collar crime is associated with trait theories that explore a combination of either stable or unstable character attributes that could explain people’s predispositions towards offending (Hirschi & Gottfredson, 1987).

Components of the trait theory include such characteristics as impulsivity, simple tasks, self-control, physical activity, self-centeredness, and tolerance (Watt, 2012). Also, the researcher explored the role of gender as an individual characteristic that could influence white-collar crime. Watt (2012) found that men were more likely to commit white-collar crime because they usually held higher managerial positions in the business world and thus possessed more power than women. In conclusion of the argument about the individual perspective with regards to white-collar crime, it is worth mentioning that the levels self-control to refrain from offending in combination with the characteristics mentioned above predicted whether an individual would commit a white-collar crime.

Environmental Perspective

While it has been proven that individual characteristics played a large role in predicting whether a person would commit white-collar crime, the environment’s impact is also essential to discuss. Pontell and Geis (2013) explored the role of the economic development in contributing to white-collar crime. The researchers suggested that such events as a Great Economic Meltdown increased the likelihood of white-collar crime and thus led to the inability of the government to address the dramatic rise in criminal prosecutions (Pontell & Geis, 2013). On the other hand, the government’s negligence could have been considered deliberate due to the worries that showcase trials of different corporate executives would undermine the authority of officials as well as the already declining levels of public trust in capitalism. Since businesses that committed a white-collar crime were considered “too big to fail” and their CEOs “too big to jail,” more and more individuals began committing such crimes due to the decreased fear of being prosecuted for their actions (Pontell & Geis, 2013, p. 76). To conclude, the deteriorating state of the economy means that more individuals can commit white-collar crimes.


To conclude, there are as many explanations for white-collar crimes as there are such crimes (Siegel, Brown, & Hoffman, 2015). However, research articles explored above provided substantial evidence for either theory that characterizes causes of white-collar crime: while individual characteristics such as self-control explain why specific people may commit this type of crime, the economic conditions are environmental factors that regulate whether white-collar crime will occur in general. The individual perspective is more effective in predicting white-collar crime since it focuses on personal features that have a larger role in characterizing behaviors.


Hirschi, T., & Gottfredson, M. (1987). Causes of white-collar crime. Criminology, 25, 949-974.

Olejarz, J. (2016). Web.

Pontell, H., & Geis, G. (2013). The trajectory of white-collar crime following the Great Economic Meltdown. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 30(1), 70-82.

Siegel, L., Brown, G., & Hoffman, R. (2012). Choice theory: Because they want to. In L. Siegel (Ed.), Criminology: The core (10th ed.) (pp. 77-98). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Watt, R. (2012). University students’ propensity towards white-collar versus street crime. Studies by Undergraduate Research at Guelph, 5(2), 5-12.

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