Crime and Deviance Theme 10 - Ethnicity and Crime

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Ethnicity and Crime

  • Compared to white people, Asian people are twice as likely to end up in jail and black people are six times more likely. Muslims are three times more likely to end up in jail compared to non-Muslims. These proportions are similar for stop and search statistics, arrest and prosecution rates.
  • There are two general types of explanations for these statistical differences: Interactionist and Structural
  • Interctionist approaches focus on the idea that statistics are socially constructed and argue these differences are a result of police bias – basically they argue that the police spend more time policing ethnic minority areas and are more likely to stop and search ethnic minorities and thus detect more Asian and much more black crime than white crime.
  • Structural explanations reject the idea that differential policing can cause such huge differences in prison statistics and argue that there are real differences in the underlying rates of offending by ethnicity. They focus on family and cultural differences or on the different age profiles and higher levels of deprivation and marginalisation experience by many black and Asian communities



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Consensus Theory and Ethnicity and Crime


  • Poverty and exclusion are key underlying causes of overrepresentation of ethnic crime, as well as being a key factor in the committing of ethnic crime
  • Father Deficit - there is a higher proportion of absent dads in African-Caribbean families. Lack of a male role model in childrens lives can result in a turn to the leaders of gangs for support and ambition - leads to committing crimes, getting girls to be like the leader of their gangs
  • A higher level of ethnic minorities are excluded from school means that they are less likely to gain any qualifications and get a good job. If they do get a job, it's low-skilled and low-paid which leads to frustration and then crime.                                                                                                                                                                                            


  • Marginalisation is often blamed for the overrepresentation of ethnic crime
  • Along with high unemployment levels, a large amount of poverty and alienation in our culture can explain why young black males in particular are predisposed to committing crime. A lot of black crime is often non-violent drug offences
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Left Realism and Ethnicity and Crime

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Neo-Marxism and Ethnicity and Crime

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Interactionism and Ethnicity and Crime

  • Argue that crime statistics are socially constructed and these statistics do not actually tell us whether members of one ethnic group are more likely than members of another ethnic group to commit an offence in the first place 
  • The variations in imprisonment rates by ethnicity might just be a reflection of differences in stop and search rates or policing  strategies more generally
  • Institutional racism is a 'microcosm of society' meaning that it is representative of society's views. The evidence of institutional racism simply underlines the fact that in a highly unequal society, law enforcement will be a selective and uneven process (Neo-Marxism)
  • This argument suggests that black people are quite possibly no more or less criminal than other groups in the population - they are seen as such and therefore the police focus efforts on ethnic minorities, and from then on it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy                                                                                                           


  • The police may label some ethnic minorities as more criminal than others and this is reflected in the stop and search statistics 
  • Moral panics in the media also need to be taken into account with regards to the self-fulfilling prophecy and deviancy amplification (Stuart Hall - muggings)
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The Culture of Resistance

  • There is a correlation between rap music and criminal behaviour in certain racial groups
  • Rap music can influence a black teen's beliefs in protest and social injustice. The majority of teens who listen to rap music believe that there is a social injustice and believe in a resistance to authority
  • Leads to the 'hyper male phenomenon' - really extreme ideas of masculinity and a conformance to the idea of hegamonic masculinity (comes from gangster/street culture)
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Sentencing Patterns

  • Black offenders were 44% more likely than white offenders to be sentenced for driving offences, 38% more likley to be imprisoned for public disorder or possession of a weapon and 27% more likley for drugs possession
  • Asian offenders were 41%more likley to be sent to prison for drugs offences than white offenders and 19%more likely to go to jail for shoplifting (in a study carried out by the Guardian)
  • It appears that the stats on sentencing suggest that the criminal justice system is biased against ethnic minorities - firstly, given that getting a conviction depends on having a substantial amount of evidence against the defendant, the statistics suggest that actual evidence against ethnic minorities who go on tirla is weaker than the evidence against the average white defendant, which explains a higher conviction rate for whites
  • Secondly, of all those who are found guilty, ethnic minorities are more likley to be given custodial sentences (prison)
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Ethnicity and Victimisation

  • Crime statistics show that self-identified mixed, black and asian ethnic groups were more at risk of being a victim of personal crime than adults from the white ethnic group
  • Young black males are more likely to be victims of crime than other ethnic groups - marginalisation and poverty (left realism) or a lack of social control (right realism)
  • However, overall, the number of racist incidents and racially aggravated offences recorded by the police had decreased over the last 5 years
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