A Hypothesis Testing Approach

Hypothesis: Individuals with College Degrees are not likely to commit crimes in the form of theft.

The hypothesis is formed of an independent variable and a dependent variable. The independent variable is educational qualification and the participants will be asked for their highest degree in terms of educational qualification with the response category of Graduate degree or higher degree. The dependent variable is conviction for theft. The participants will be asked whether they have ever been convicted of theft since getting their degrees. This hypothesis can be tested with a yes or no response from the participants. The hypothesis is tested on the basis of whether the access to education in college and having college degrees can affect the possibility of deviance in the form of thieving in the individual. Thus, the dependent variable is conviction of theft, and the independent variable is college degree.

The hypothesis is based on the literature on structural-functional approach and social-conflict approach. The structural-functional approach is focused on the structures and institutions in the society and the ways in which such social structures and institutions create social conditions (Pandey, Panchal, & McCullum, 2015). The structural-functional thesis is that social structures and institutions are always in a state of collaboration with each other, and this engenders conditions that lead to the better functioning of the society (Pandey, Panchal, & McCullum, 2015). The structural-functional approach argues that where social structures are collaborative, society has better chances of preservation. Social rules may define individual success in specific and materialistic ways, and the society may provide the blueprint for success and the rules through which success may be achieved (Bernburg, 2002). This may include educational and material attainment. Individuals who are not able to achieve success through legitimised means, such as, educational attainment may choose to achieve these goals through illegitimate means (Bernburg, 2002).

The structural-functional approach is also represented in the theory of anomie by Merton, who explained that anomie can explain the significance of gaps between aspirations of the young people and the means available to them to attain these aspirations and how these gaps lead to the commission of deviance and crime because young people who are exposed to materialization and to ambitions but not having the means to attain these ambitions, may be lead to delinquency (Merton, 1957). Thus, there may be a link between low socioeconomic status or low educational attainment and a desire to achieve a more prosperous lifestyle, which may be sought through deviant acts like theft.

The hypothesis formulated for this research is based on the premise that individuals with college degrees are more concerned with preserving the social security and law and order by not indulging in criminal activities like theft. This is based on the understanding of anomie theory which can be used here to argue that individuals with college and higher degrees are less likely to indulge in illegitimate means of gaining material success because they have more opportunities to gain material success through legitimate means because of their educational qualifications.

The social-conflict approach is also similar to the structural-functional approach, which considers the society as a whole while not emphasising on the social structures interacting collaboratively with each other, but instead recognising the ways in which conflicts take place in society and as between the social structures. Social conflicts therefore arise because of distinctions in class, race and gender, which lead to inequalities in the society and also engender conditions that lead to conflict in the society. This may even be related to social control, which the society seeks to ensure without resort to violence or force because education can be a way of exercising social control (Deflem, 2015 ). Social institutions, including education, are instruments of social control, which seek to ensure the regulation of behaviour and control of deviance in the society (Deflem, 2015 ).

The social-conflict approach can be related to the question of why individuals may commit theft, and in the context of the present hypothesis, the social-conflict theory may argue that individuals with college degrees understand that activities like theft puts the property of others at a higher risk and this leads to a conflict between their interests and the interests of others. With this understanding, they may choose to not indulge in activities that are likely to put property of others at risk and this may explain why they do not commit theft at the same rate as those who may not have had the benefit of higher education. This can be related to the labelling theory as well, because it posits that individuals who are labelled as socially upstanding in the society, and those who are labelled as potentially deviant, can be impacted by these labels in the long term and go on to achieve the same levels of social success or deviance as the society may have predicted for them.

People with college degrees are often labelled as socially successful and those who do not have similar educational attainment may not be perceived as successful in the same manner, and this may have impacts on their actual material attainments in life. This may also lead to social conflict with those without college degrees not having access to similar opportunities to attain material success. An older research has demonstrated how social perceptions about individuals can impact their chances at having access to jobs and other social conditions (Chambliss, 1973). In this study, the researcher followed two groups of boys in a high schools, one of which were perceived to be ‘good boys’ and others as ‘bad or delinquent boys’ (Chambliss, 1973). The latter of the group went on to fulfil the prophesies of the society and majority of these boys were involved in deviant activities over the next few years while the former went on to colleges and then good jobs.


Bernburg, J. G. (2002). Anomie, social change and crime. A theoretical examination of institutional‐anomie theory . British Journal of Criminology, 42(4), 729-742.

Chambliss, W. J. (1973). The saints and the roughnecks. Society, 11(1), 24-31.

Deflem, M. ( 2015 ). Deviance and social control. In E. Goode, The handbook of deviance (pp. 30-44). Wiley.

Merton, R. (1957). Social Theory and Social Structure. Illinois: Free Press .

Pandey, S., Panchal, Y. T., & McCullum, R. (2015). Deviance and structural functional theory-root thorough analysis. Scholedge International Journal of Multidisciplinary & Allied Studies, 2(4), 1-5.

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