Poverty and Violence

  • Robert D. Crutchfield
  • Tim Wadsworth


Poverty is widely believed to cause violence. The general public treats this notion as a truism, and most academics also accept it as such. Debates among the latter tend to be over which social mechanisms cause poverty to affect violence. But there are other positions to be sure. Poverty has been linked to violence in a number of ways. Most scholars as well as lay persons believe that those who live in poverty more frequently engage in acts of violence as a consequence of conditions that they are subjected to. There is, however, disagreement among scholars about which conditions are important and how and why they lead to violence. These conditions may include poor housing (Stark, 1987), distressed neighborhood (Krivo & Peterson, 1996), and disrupted families (Sampson & Groves, 1989). Living conditions of this sort are ordinarily defined as social structural consequences of poverty. While this structural approach has usually viewed poverty as the independent variable and violence as the dependent, some scholars have also argued that violence can cause poverty at the aggregate level by creating an unstable or dangerous environment which is not conducive to economic development or growth (Staley, 1992). It may also be that those who are financially better off will move out of areas with high rates of violence leaving only those who are economically unable to relocate (Wilson, 1996).


Social Class Income Inequality Violent Crime Violent Behavior American Sociological Review 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert D. Crutchfield
  • Tim Wadsworth

There are no affiliations available

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