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Get a Job

Get a Job: Labor Markets, Economic Opportunity, and Crime

Robert D. Crutchfield
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Get a Job
    Book Description:

    Are the unemployed more likely to commit crimes? Does having a job make one less likely to commit a crime? Criminologists have found that individuals who are marginalized from the labor market are more likely to commit crimes, and communities with more members who are marginal to the labor market have higher rates of crime. Yet, as Robert Crutchfield explains, contrary to popular expectations, unemployment has been found to be an inconsistent predictor of either individual criminality or collective crime rates. InGet a Job, Crutchfield offers a carefully nuanced understanding of the links among work, unemployment, and crime. Crutchfield explains how people's positioning in the labor market affects their participation in all kinds of crimes, from violent acts to profit-motivated offenses such as theft and drug trafficking. Crutchfield also draws on his first-hand knowledge of growing up in a poor, black neighborhood in Pittsburgh and later working on the streets as a parole officer, enabling him to develop a more complete understanding of how work and crime are related and both contribute to, and are a result of, social inequalities and disadvantage. Well-researched and informative,Get a Jobtells a powerful story of one of the most troubling side effects of economic disparities in America.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-2972-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Modern Misérables: Labor Market Influences on Crime
    (pp. 1-30)

    John Edgar Wideman’s book Brothers and Keepers is the tale of two brothers; the younger Robby’s early life and incarceration in a Pennsylvania prison, convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life. The other, John himself, now a Brown University professor, was on the faculty of the University of Wyoming when he wrote the above passage.Brothers and Keepersis also a tale of their Homewoods; one of Pittsburgh’s black ghettos, where the Wideman brothers came of age. John’s Homewood of working-class neighborhoods was peopled by blue-collar families. Most of the parents and some of the children had immigrated from...

  5. 2 “Get a Job”: The Connection between Work and Crime
    (pp. 31-64)

    My first encounter with Walter was in his mother-in-law’s living room.¹ Walter was not too long out of prison after serving a few years for a robbery conviction. A skinny, sullen young man who looked even younger than his early twenty-something years, Walter was transferred to my caseload from that of another agent. I had been told that he was not a real problem but that he was having a difficult time finding a job, and so much of that first meeting focused on his job search—or perhaps I should say his lack of a job search. Working was...

  6. 3 Why Do They Do It?: The Potential for Criminality
    (pp. 65-82)

    Many people ask, “Why do they do it?” They are not inquiring about neighborhood rates of violence, but rather they want to know why an individual engages in crime. Why did Robby Wideman and his friends decide to shake down a fence, leading to his murder? Why did Walter mug an old man? After all, I didn’t have neighborhoods on my parole caseload. I had individual clients, because individuals commit crimes. It is important to note that our understanding must take seriously the social ecology of crime, and it is clear that many politicians’ and members of the general publics’...

  7. 4 “I Don’t Want No Damn Slave Job!”: The Effects of Lack of Employment Opportunities
    (pp. 83-121)

    Most Americans, perhaps even most residents of Western nations, view the individual as endowed with both the capacity and the responsibility to govern their behavior and to a large extent, their destiny. As a result, non–social scientists read arguments like those presented in the preceding chapters with some skepticism. “I know they have had it tough,” they say, speaking of the poor, the chronically unemployed, and other disadvantaged peoples, “but they have to take some responsibility for themselves and go out and find a job, and there is certainly no excuse for crime.” This is a sentiment expressed by...

  8. 5 “Life in the Hood”: How Social Context Matters
    (pp. 122-158)

    John Edgar Wideman did not explain the differences between his accomplished life as a scholar and writer and that of his brother Robby, serving a life sentence, by blaming those differences on their parents, family, or on the two brothers’ intellectual abilities. The family remained strong and vital and in the eyes of the brother on the faculty of Brown University, his younger brother is very intelligent. It was Homewood, their community, which changed from the community that had nurtured their parents and differences in how these two bothers interfaced with it.

    Because Homewood was self-contained and possessed such a...

  9. 6 Lessons from the Hole in the Wall Gang
    (pp. 159-181)

    So far, the labor stratification and crime thesis has been shown to support efforts to explain some important variations in both individual criminality and in crime and delinquency rates. But I should note two very important limitations so far. The first is that the places where most of this research has been done has focused on metropolitan areas within the United States. While I have used some examples from rural areas, the Hole in the Wall Gang, and my former parolee Steven, perhaps some important aspects of the relationship between work and crime can be learned from a broader empirical...

  10. 7 Toward a More General Explanation of Employment and Crime
    (pp. 182-224)

    A more general explanation—that is, one that is similar to the basic labor stratification and crime thesis—must be able to explain both the apparent anomalies such as rising crime during plenty and falling crime rates during economic distress, as well as crime in societies that have moved beyond the industrial economies that began to falter at the end of the twentieth century. At the same time, that more general thesis should retain the basic explanatory model that holds that socially structured labor stratification and its consequent inequality is criminogenic. This can be accomplished by more explicitly moving social...

  11. 8 A Tale of My Two Cities
    (pp. 225-248)

    The two cities that I have called home for much of my life, Pittsburgh and Seattle, like the London and Paris of which Dickens wrote, are both alike in some ways and very different in other ways. A brief look at them will, I believe, point us in directions that the labor stratification and crime thesis will lead us for both research and public policy questions that should be asked. And as was the case in the mid-nineteenth century, some of our noisiest authorities—politicians—see in our current state either the best of times or the worst of times....

  12. APPENDIX: Data
    (pp. 249-258)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 259-284)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 285-290)
    (pp. 291-291)