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Debunking the ‘Poverty Causes Crime’ Myth

As we watch the nation continue to explode in protests/riots over the George Floyd killing by a police officer in Minneapolis and across the country, there is a narrative that goes well beyond the incident of George Floyd. The narrative says that there is a crisis of systematic racism that drives poverty. Hence, there is some implied justification for these protests/riots in a drive of some kind of perceived economic injustice. So the question that many ask: Does Poverty Cause crime? Let’s put this theory to the test.

In 2018 median Black household income (the level at which half of the households have higher incomes and half the lower) reached $41,511. For the same year across the U.S., it was $61,937. So, yes, the African American community does have a significant difference. But Black populations have had an increase in median income for Black households between 2013 and 2018 – after declining after the 2008 Great Recession most increases after 2016 during the Trump administration.

But let’s examine other poor areas – West Virginia. The median household income for West Virginia was $44,097 in 2018.

Now let’s take a look at the racial demographics of this same state of West Virginia. West Virginia is very white (93.5%) and very poor, relative to the rest of the U.S. It is on par with African Americans.

White alone, percent 93.5%
Black or African American alone, percent(a) 3.6%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone, percent(a) 0.3%
Asian alone, percent(a) 0.8%
Two or More Races, percent 1.8%
Hispanic or Latino, percent(b) 1.7%

Let’s now look at murder rates (but similar for other crimes) of these two communities African Americans and the people of West Virginia. Black communities are more than three times worse than in West Virginia. The following percentages are the percentage break downs:

  • West Virginia – 0.0037%
  • African American – 0.0105%

The crime rates between these two communities are dramatically different, though poverty (median income) is virtually the same. One might say, well, African Americans live in large metropolitan areas. This would suggest that then the problem is the urbanization of cities, but you will find similar numbers when looking at specific populations with in the city – for example, Chicago. Other data would suggest that much of the Black population (55%) live in the South still today.

We looked at two specific groups where all things being similar, the outcomes are very different. Take a look at a longer-term view of poverty vs.murder. In the 1960s, poverty rates plummeted in the U.S., but murder rates soared. Could this be because of the Leftist Democratic policy of the war on poverty that went wrong? Since then, poverty rates have been stagnant, though the murder plummeted. Could this be because of more modern policing techniques and stronger incarceration rates of crime? The poverty vs. crime rate historically has very poor correlation – there are other factors in play and a subject for another article. But we will point out that studies show the number one predictor for growing up in poverty is being born to an unwed mother.

So if poverty does not cause crime, what does? It is worth remembering that whenever an American claims that crime in America is caused by poverty, most poor who commit murder, rape, and robbery are not only not starving, they have far more material things than the word “poverty” suggests. We could go into specific cultural issues of the stable family, single-parent families, Hollywood’s influence, media, loss of religious guidance, just to name a few. The point is that it is from the choices society makes. One could suggest that crime causes poverty, the other way around. Just ask the recent business owners from these nationwide protests/riots going on currently. Again a subject to go deeper in another article. Let’s take one truth at a time.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, “poverty causes crime” is still pretty much accepted as scripture by those on the Left. The “poverty causes crime” myth serves the Leftists’ road to political empowerment, which is their true goal. The Marxists want to be able to dominate, and thus to exploit, everybody else. They want to supplant the natural elite with themselves. All of their talk about “social justice” is merely a hypocritical deception.

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