Socio-Economic Factors and Crime Rates in the USA
Methodology and Data Analysis
Data Collection Methods
The terms ‘crime’ and ‘economic crisis’ have turned to be common in the media, day-to-day language and in diplomatic and academic discourse. There could be some particular statistical indicators for each of the terms, but the measures often give a representation of broad proxies without showing the complexity of the effect of crime victimization or economic stress that individuals, families, communities or counties face. It is difficult to measure each one of the concepts individually in the first place before even looking at how they associate.
This research was based on primary and secondary sources of data. Primary data were obtained directly from respondents. They included law enforcement agencies such as the police, representatives of education facilities such as teachers, representatives of the youth, parents, and the general public. Law enforcement agencies (the police, in this case) were chosen as primary sources of data as they have first-hand encounter with the criminal activities in the USA and are directly involved with the criminals themselves. They have sufficient data that shows the trends in criminal activities with regard to those who are often involved and possible reasons behind such criminal acts. Teachers who are chosen to represent education facilities also have a significant contribution to societal order, as they are responsible for inculcating morality in students (the youth). They have knowledge of common contributing factors of crime, since they often interact with and provide counseling services to school-going youths. Secondary sources were also used to give an account of the information that was obtained from primary sources. The sources were helpful in analysis, evaluation and interpretation of the information derived from primary data. In addition, secondary sources were also useful in providing a review of what other researchers have already reported about the study topic. Secondary sources used were mainly books and articles from scholarly journals.
Quantitative and Qualitative Data Collection Tools
According to Koul, most techniques for measuring perception and attitude rely heavily on verbal material in form of interviews or questionnaires. In order to meet the objective of the study, the research used both open-ended and closed-ended questionnaires for collecting information from respondents. Closed-ended questions were used for ease of data analysis. However, it was necessary to include some open-ended questions to give room for more extensive responses from respondents.
To ensure validity and reliability of the questionnaires the primary instruments were used in the study. The instruments were pre-tested with a random sample of 100 respondents with efforts made to ensure that there was an equitable representation of the target groups of the population. These were members of law enforcement agencies, members of education facilities, parents, and the general public. The questionnaires used for pre-testing were evaluated for clarity, consistency and appropriateness. During the evaluation process, a number of changes and revisions were made based on suggestions that were obtained from the respondents involved in the pre-testing stage. This helps to boost validity and reliability of research instruments.
Sample Size and Sampling Method
The study targeted law enforcement agencies with particular attention to the police, while studying education facilities mainly focused on teachers and members of the general public with parents inclusive. As such, the study had a large target group and there was a need to come up with a sample that would effectively represent all chosen groups of people. Due to the large target group, a combination of simple random sampling and convenient sampling methods was used. Simple random sampling was used to get samples from a given target group, for instance the police, and to draw unbiased conclusions from the study. This method was applied after convenient sampling that helped to ensure all the target groups were included in the sample. Hence, the study used a study population of 600 respondents, which was representative of the entire target population. The number was considered appropriate due to the fact that there was a short time frame allowable for conducting the study besides resource limitations. However, the population was drawn from across the groups targeted by the research.
Study Design in Relation to the Research Proposal and Plan
To achieve the objectives of the study, descriptive survey design was employed. Descriptive research studies are those studies which are concerned with describing characteristics of variables in a given situation. The choice of descriptive study design is based on the understanding that the study can be done without the need to manipulate the environment. The design is also considered as the best for collecting information that demonstrates relationships and describes situations as they are.
All research participants were issued with the informed consent form that they signed as a confirmation they voluntarily participated in the study. They were asked a series of questions related to the topic of study (economic factors and crime rates in the USA). In the case of in-person or one-on-one interviews, the researcher jotted down notes. However, to reach out to all members of the target groups without much limitation in terms of time, resources, and geographical factors, information was partly obtained through online services. Therefore, the questionnaires were emailed to the respondents, while other respondents were engaged in phone interviews or text messaging. The respondents were given a time frame of two weeks to fill in the questionnaires before they were collected for analysis.
Data was analyzed descriptively and presented in form of tables. Descriptive methods were employed in analyzing qualitative data, while frequencies and percentages were used in interpreting the respondents’ perceptions on issues raised in the questionnaires, so as to answer the research questions. Used descriptive statistics were frequency distribution. Percentages were calculated and data were presented in form of tables.
A number of ethical considerations were made to ensure that the research does not contravene any ethical standards of an academic research. The first consideration made was to obtain permission from institutions that the study targeted as supported by Koul. Respondents’ consent was sought to ensure that they voluntarily participated in the study. Respondents were given an assurance that information derived from the study would not be disclosed to other parties. Besides, findings of the study were made anonymous with great care taken to ensure that the study did not cause any emotional harm to respondents.
The study findings are limited to the United States of America and they may not be generalized to cover other countries. The study also faced limitations in terms of lack of cooperation from a few respondents who had very busy schedules and others who thought that the information collected in the course of the study would be used for ill motives. However, provision of an introduction letter from the university, showing that the research was purely academic, helped to improve respondents’ willingness to participate in the study.
Collation, Presentation and Analysis of Primary Data Collected
Data was collected using questionnaires that had been pre-tested and improved to ensure validity and reliability of the research findings. An observation checklist was used to verify data obtained from the respondents. The data was presented in textual, tabular, graphical, and chart forms. Data was coded thematically and frequency of response was indicated. Analysis was enhanced with the aid of frequency distribution tables.
The Relationship between Unemployment and Crime Rate in USA
A higher percentage of the respondents belonged to the category of those who are casually employed. This category included respondents that were in self-employment. 50% of respondents were either involved in hawking businesses or other forms of small scale businesses and casual employments that had very low wages. Obtained responses also indicated that a high percentage of youth are completely unemployed. This category constituted the youth who are neither in formal nor informal business. The category made up 40% of the total population while those in formal employment made the least percentage, 10% of the total population.
Figure 1. Respondents’ employment status.
The results of the respondents’ employment status clearly show that a higher percentage of the population is unemployed. Unemployment is one of the main contributions to crime in the USA as it leads to formation of illegal social groups that perpetuate societal vices like robbery, rape and drug abuse among others. As discussed in the literature review, migration has a negative impact on social well-being of the society and contributes to a rise in crime rates. Some of the negative influence of migration is caused by unemployment that forces majority of youth to move from rural to urban areas in search for job opportunities. This kind of migration leads to displacement, which leads to instability, conflicts, and aggravation of socio-economic and political situation in the USA. Besides, migration culminates to the emergence of refugees who should be protected through creation of special measures to facilitate provision of basic needs. The unemployed population is made prone to high level of crime and the risk of victimization due to social disorder and insecurity When they migrate to the cities, the unemployed youth get a lot of freedom and are subjected to several temptations of city life. Coupled with effects of diversity, life temptations of the unemployed population can place a person from the country in a criminal setting, causing ‘incorrect behavior’ and, eventually, immoral or socially unacceptable way of life.
In situations where rates of unemployment are seen to be on the rise in the long-term, there are associated long-term increases in robbery rates over the same period. This association is based on the understanding that unemployment leads to creation of desperate measures of survival by the affected group. Most of the survival tricks formulated by unemployed segment of the population are criminal in nature as they may include theft, robbery and other unacceptable means of earning a living.
Entry Points in the Communication and Relevant Models of Behavior in the Family
Family is the smallest social unit that has a significant role in inculcating morality. Children, as they grow up, need to be guided on socially accepted modes of behavior that enable them to develop into responsible citizens. Children are molded by their parents who offer them guidance and counseling on what society expects of them. However, socio-economic pressure in the USA has changed the nature of parental role to the point that many children grow up without much interaction with their parents. Lack of parent- child interaction contributes to a lack of entry points in the communication and relevant models of behavior in the family. The data collected in this study shows a rise in the number of single and widowed parents. Such trends signal lack of properly constituted families that can effectively contribute to proper child development. It means that a single parent is preoccupied with economic activities aimed at providing basic needs for children at the expense of educating them on acceptable modes of behavior. Most teachers complain that parental role has been passed to them since parents no longer have enough time with their children. Due to the number of students that teachers interact with on a daily basis, it is futile for them to pay individual attention to all students; hence, they fail to offer the necessary guidance to them on morality. Thus, parents frequent absence and the psychopathological challenges that are associated with family sexual or physical abuse are among the main factors assisting juvenile crime.
Figure 2. Respondents' marital status.
Despite rise in the number of single and widowed parents, most respondents indicated that the country does not provide enough support to children, mothers and the family in general. Moreover, the country has failed in the requirement to offer protection to the institutions that are considered vital in the fight for social order. The current needs of American society are not effectively catered for by the free medical care system, preschool and school education. The requirement to balance between work and family life by working professionally while at work and also serving as a father or mother at home causes a lot of stress. Such stress adversely affects citizen’s physical and mental health while also changing the parental role.
How Crime Rates Relate to the Freedom of Conscience and Religion
Primary data that was obtained from the law enforcement agencies (the police) show some laxity in enforcing laws that govern conscience and religion. Based on the data, it is evident that there is a great diversity and complexity in the contributing factors to crimes that challenge the citizens’ freedom of conscience and religion in the USA. For the crimes to be effectively prevented at the societal and criminological levels there is need for an integrated approach to be applied besides that external components that are mainly psycho-emotional based. There have been a series of open discussions held by the US government bodies on the subject of crimes that encroach on the freedom of conscience and religion. They expressed their concern about negative consequences, including political ones, of such crimes. Therefore, crimes of this nature result in several political and social conflicts that are hardly resolved in the initial stages of emergence due to lack of constructive solutions. Besides, failure to identify and act in a move to prevent the occurrence of conflicts and reduce tension is blamed on lack of a unified state system that can help to monitor state and confessional relations based on complex (multifactor) assessment.
Gender Inequality and Crime Rates
Several efforts were made to change the perception of the female gender where they were traditionally perceived as inferior beings. Currently, the female gender is empowered and capable of taking up tasks that were traditionally perceived to be a reserved for men. Education is open to both genders. However, the results obtained from this study indicate that there is still a big gap with respect to availability of opportunities for males and females. Gender inequality makes women feel that the society does not appreciate their contributions to social development. Besides, the perception that women are inferior beings subjects them to exploitation by male counterparts. It is for this reason that most rape cases involve women as the victims who are subjected to torture. This is caused by them being believed to be weaker ones hence they are mistreated by their male counterparts.
There are several areas where inequality is observed. Some of the main areas include professional activities, division of labor, employment and the payment levels among others. The phenomenon has become part of the society to the extent that it is genetically inherent. It has a serious implication on the society as evidenced by increased rates of crime in the USA resulting from a failure by women to get what they believe that they should get from the society. The respondents stated that women are still denied some job opportunities. Inequality is evident in political positions where high profile posts are believed (by some percent of the population) to be reserved for males. It is because males are considered more powerful than females.
This research has provided empirical evidence showing that the most prominent socio-economic factor that leads to a high crime rate in the USA is unemployment. Unemployment is closely related to imbalance in income and it also accounts for the challenges that are associated with immigration. The study has also revealed that changes in parental role and the alterations in the family structure put a lot of strain on teachers who are forced to assume parenting roles. Due to the unsuitable teacher-to-student ratio, teachers are unable to attend to all students at a personal level, hence morality and general societal norms are not well-imparted on learners. The study reveals that other socio-economic factors that affect crime rates in the USA are alcoholism and drug abuse. As such, efforts aimed at reducing the rates of crime in the USA should involve attempts to remove the negative socio-economic factors. Elimination of the factors would effectively help more than isolation of juveniles from the society.