Social Problems that Lead to Increases in the Crime Rate

Updated June 26, 2018

While there are many overlapping causes for crime worldwide, there are social factors that tend to lead increases in crime as well. Income inequality, abuse, drug use and teenage pregnancies are four social problems that contribute to the rise in crime rates.

Poverty and Income Inequality

Generally speaking, poverty and income inequality have been attributed as a cause for many crimes, as those living in impoverished situations oftentimes turn to crime in order to provide food and clothing for their families. The larger the differential between the higher and lower income earners, the more crime is present. For instance, murder rates are three times higher in countries with more inequalities between high and low earners. Along with the aforementioned, studies by Harvard and Berkeley reported that income inequality and poverty contributed to higher rates of incarceration also.

Child Abuse

An estimated 800,000 children in the U.S. are victims of abuse and/or neglect each year. When children are abused, they are that much more likely to become abusive as adults. Exposure to abuse in the formative years of one's life has been known to cause physical, mental and emotional harm that can last into adulthood, sometimes for the remainder of their lives, which leads to crime in some cases.

Drug Use

Drug use can be a crime in most cases, the drugs themselves being illegal. For highly addictive drugs like cocaine, heroin, amphetamines and even marijuana to an extent, it is a crime to use, carry and sell in most places. The type of behaviours drug users' exhibit while on drugs also contributes to crime, some even generating violence in the user. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported that illicit drug users are 16 times more likely to be arrested and booked for larceny or theft than nonusers. These users are also 14 times as likely to be arrested and booked for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and nine times as likely to be arrested and booked for assault.

Teen Pregnancy

Teens who become sexually active early in their lives are taking part in high-risk behaviours, which could mean they are taking part in other types of risky behaviour as well, including illegal drug use, crime and violence. Three-quarters of male teens with criminal pasts are sexually experienced, for instance, and young men involved in a pregnancy in Massachusetts were involved in more school fights than their abstaining counterparts. Children born to unwed, teen mothers are at an increased risk for criminal involvement, as well as experiencing violence and abuse -- both risk factors for crime.

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About the Author

A.J. Walkley earned a B.A. in literature from Dickinson College in 2007 before heading into the U.S. Peace Corps as a health volunteer in Malawi, Africa. Upon her return to the States, she became a United Nations correspondent and freelance writer working out of New York City, before moving to the Los Angeles area. She is currently writing out of Connecticut.