Q&A Friday #60: What’s The Root Cause Of Gang Culture/Crime In The US?

Question: “How much do you blame the lack of positive role models, families falling apart on the us gang culture. How much do you blame television the mtv generation.” — inthemid

Answer: There’s no one factor that explains gang culture/crime/bad behavior, but the biggest factor by far is illegitimacy. There are lots of single parents out there who do a great job of raising their kids, but statistically, kids who aren’t raised in a stable, two parent family tend to cause/have a lot more problems.

Here’s a relevant excerpt from an old Gertrude Himmelfarb column that will show you how crime and illegitmacy dovetail:

“One answer lies in statistics. It is instructive–and disquieting–to compare Victorian “moral statistics,” as they called them, with our own. In Victorian England, the proportion of illegitimate births to total births fell from 7 percent in 1845 to less than 4 percent by the end of the century. In 1960, English illegitimacy began to rise–from 5 percent in 1960 to 32 percent at the end of 1992, a sixfold rise in three decades.

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In the United States, the figures are no less dramatic. Starting at 3 percent in 1920 (the first year for which there are national statistics), the illegitimacy ratio rose gradually to slightly over 4 percent by 1960 (the same figure as England), after which it grew rapidly, more than doubling by 1970, and reaching 30 percent by 1991.

Or let us take another “moral statistic”: crime. In England between 1856 and 1901, the rate of serious crimes declined by almost 50 percent. The absolute numbers are even more graphic: while the population grew from 19 million to 33 million, the number of offenses fell from 92,000 to 81,000.

England’s low crime rate persisted until the mid-1920’s when it started to rise leveling off or declining slightly in the early 1950s. A dramatic rise started in the mid-1950s, and by 1991 the crime rate was 10 times that of 1955 and 40 times that of 1901.

National crime statistics for the United States start only in 1960, but local statistics suggest that, as in England, crime generally decreased from the latter half of the nineteenth century into the early twentieth century. A rapid increase started in 1960, the rate tripling by 1980. A decline in the early 1980s was followed by another rise, bringing the 1992 rate to a level somewhat lower than its peak in 1980. The rate of violent crime followed the general pattern, except that the increase after 1985 was more precipitous, making for an almost fivefold rise from 1960.”

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