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The Relationship Between Inequality and Crime

Introduction

The relation between inequality and crime is of interest in multiple disciplines, including sociology, economics, psychology and epidemiology (Rufrancos et al., 2013). Different theoretical propositions have been made to explain the relationship between crime and inequality. For instance, it has been argued that crime is the result of the interactions between transit and surroundings, where crimes seem to be related to the neighbourhood; or that crimes are resultant of status competition, where those at the bottom of the income distribution and sensitive to inequality may undertake risk-seeking behaviour (such as crime) when low- risk activities offer poor returns to the individual (Rufrancos et al, 2013).

Literature on poverty and crime indicate that these are interlinked as the rewards of crimes may be higher for the poor, while the costs may be lower as compared with rich people (Rueda & Stegmueller, 2016). In this context, the anomie theory may relevant as it explains the significance of gaps between aspirations and means available so that when individuals with higher aspirations but lower means are exposed to ambitions they may be led to delinquency (Merton, 1957). Anomie theory has also been used to emphasise on how absence or unclarity of norms in a society increase the conditions that are conducive to the increase in crime (Bernburg, 2002).

Research does indicate that there is a strong association between inequality and violence (Vauclair& Bratanova, 2017). According to Birdsall (2006) developing countries demonstrate the destructive quality of inequality. One example of link between crime and inequality in developing countries is in the increase of human trafficking from developing countries where poverty is considered to be a major factor for increasing the vulnerability of women who are lured into sex trade via human trafficking by promises of employment (Hook, Gjermeni, & Haxhimeri, 2006). Poor women are easy prey to traffickers who promise money and success (Hook, Gjermeni, & Haxhimeri, 2006).

Inequality may also adversely affect social norms about corruption and beliefs about the legitimacy of rules and institutions, which makes it easier to allow corruption as acceptable behaviour (Jong-Sung & Khagram, 2005). There is evidence that supports the contention that forms of income inequality is closely linked to high levels of corruptions (Rose-Ackerman, 2010).

In Libya, the discussion on crime and inequality has taken on significance, particularly due to the increase in unequal income and a perceived increase in crimes, which has been noticeable in Libyan society. This research seeks to explore the links between inequality and increase in crime in the context of Libya.

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Aim and Objectives

The principal aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between inequality and crimes in Libya by identifying the motivations for crimes among the young people of Libya.

The objective of this research is not only to distinguish between various theories of the link between inequality and crime; but also to reveal different aspects of this relationship from a cross-country perspective. The following are the objectives of this research:

To provide a critical review of literature about Crime, Inequality and the State.

To explore the weaknesses and deficiencies in the Libyan laws with regard to social control.

To gather data and information about the Crime, Inequality and the State in Libya.

To explore the ways in which regional and international laws can be applied to Libya in context of crime and inequality.

Research Questions

The following are the research questions sought to be answered in this research:

Has the armed conflict in Libya (2011-2019) impacted incidence of crime because of increase of inequality?

Literature review

Crime is defined as behaviour or actions which are in violation of the law; it is behaviour which is punishable by law (Fathi, 2016). Braithwaite (2013) define crime as behaviour which violates the law, whether or not an individual is caught and punished for it. That is, one does not have to be caught by the official agents of social control for one's behaviour to be classified as criminal in nature. Thus, criminal behaviour is specifically related to behaviour of the individual which violates the law of the land and for which the law prescribes punishment.

Crime is associated with a number of factors. These include income levels, poverty and exposure to a lack of human capital (Paternoster, 2010). According to Fields (1989) inequality refers to disparities in income or income growth rate among groups. Some groups may experience greater proportional gains in income than others and inequality increase if the income of the rich rises at a higher rate than that of the poor. Vauclair and Bratanova (2017) argue that income inequality is the most common aspect of most societies.

Literature indicates that inequality impacts the individual, economy and society in different ways; an individual may be impacted by being denied a quality of life that others better situated enjoy (Rufrancos et al., 2013). Kelly (2000) describes the relationship between inequality and crime as stressed by the three main ecological theories of crime: Becker’s economic theory of crime; Shaw and McKay’s social disorganization theory; and Merton’s strain theory. These three ecological crime theories are focusing on different facets of the relationship between crime and inequality. Social disorganization theory considers informal social deterrents to crime. Strain theory focuses on pressures to commit a violent crime. The economic theory of crime is concerned primarily with the incentives to commit property crime and the deterrent effect of the formal criminal justice system (Kelly, 2000).

The level of income inequality makes a difference in the well-being of the population, with more equal societies having better “performance” on a wide range of social problems such as physical and mental health, educational performance, violence, imprisonment or social mobility (Fajnzylber et al., 2000). Considering these differences in outcomes based on inequalities between people, it has been suggested that the government should change the policies to prevent poverty among individuals (Braithwaite, 2013). Previous studies have paid little attention to the different effect of inequality for people in different age groups. In this study, the research will focus on the effects of inequality on the delinquency by the younger people in Libya.

Research Methodology

Creswell (2013) defines research designs as “types of inquiry within qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods approaches that provide specific direction for procedures in a research design” (p.12). Many researchers establish their methods through their epistemological and philosophical assumptions. These methods may be quantitative in the case of positivist research and qualitative in interpretive research (Kivunja & Kuyini, 2017).

Quantitative research is structured so that a researcher can obtain facts and statistics to guide her to get reliable statistical results; it may be important to survey people in fairly large numbers and to make sure that they are a representative sample of the target market for quantitative research to be effective (Kivunja & Kuyini, 2017). Thus, this research method requires larger sample sizes, implying investigation of the broader issues related theoretically to the population. At the same time, quantitative research does not provide an in-depth insight into the topic or discuss the meanings things have to different people. Qualitative research is more appropriate in studies where in-depth insight into the topic is needed or exploration of different meanings that things have to different people is needed (Creswell, 2013). Mixed methods research, which combined both quantitative and qualitative methods can also be used by the researcher where the researcher wants to have the benefits of both kinds of research methods (Atkinson, 2012).

This study will use survey as the primary data collection method under quantitative method and secondary data collected through journals, books, and reports. As such, a mixed methods research is used in this research. The survey used because it will be able to provide an insight into different perceptions from a large number of respondents. Secondary data is used because it will provide data already collected in other primary research studies, which can be collated with the findings of the survey in this study. By using both quantitative and qualitative methods, the researcher will be able to also use triangulation, which is the method that uses different data sources and if these data sources arrive at the same findings then the reliability of the research study’s findings is increased (Bamberger, 2000). In this study the findings of the survey will be compared with the findings from other data sources that are provided through secondary methods (Bamberger, 2000, p. 14).

Literature does indicate that there is a connection between crime and inequality. However, there is paucity of literature on the ways in which inequality interacts with crime in Libya. Libya has undergone significant political and social changes in the last few years. Research on how inequalities in the society in Libya led to more crime is timely and pertinent. It will add to literature on the field by linking existing literature to the situation in Libya. Moreover, this research will involve primary as well as secondary data. Primary data will be useful in generating more insight into how theoretical positions on inequality and crime relates to Libya. This will contribute to the existing field of knowledge through data collected from Libya. As there is little such research available in Libyan context as of now, this research has the potential to add to the literature on crime and inequality in Libyan context.

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References

Atkinson, M. (2012). Key Concepts in Sports and Exercise Research Methods. London: Sage.

Bamberger, M. (2000). Opportunities and Challenges for Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Research. In M. Bamberger (Ed.), Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Research in Development Projects (pp. 3-36). Washington: World Bank Publications.

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

Birdsall, N. (2006). Rising inequality in the new global economy. International journal of development issues, 5(1), 1-9.

Braithwaite, J. (2013). Inequality, Crime and Public Policy (Routledge Revivals). Routledge.

Fajnzylber, P., Lederman, D., & Loayza, N. (2002). Inequality and violent crime. The Journal of Law and Economics, 45(1), 1-39.

Fathi, M. J. (2016). Examination of crime and similar concepts in the medical law. Journal of medical ethics and history of medicine, 9

Fields, G. S. (1989). Changes in poverty and inequality in developing countries. The World Bank Research Observer, 4(2), 167-185.

Hook, M. V., Gjermeni, E., & Haxhimeri, E. (2006). Sexual trafficking of women: Tragic proportions and attempted in Albania. Int. Soc. Work , 49 , 29.

Kelly, M. (2000). Inequality and crime. Review of Economics and Statistics, 82(4), 530-539.

Jong-Sung, Y., & Khagram, S. (2005). A comparative study of inequality and corruption. American sociological review, 70(1), 136-157.

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

Rufrancos, H. G., Power, M., Pickett, K. E., & Wilkinson, R. (2013). Sociology and Criminology-Open Access.

Rueda, D., & Stegmueller, D. (2016). The externalities of inequality: Fear of crime and preferences for redistribution in Western Europe. American Journal of Political Science, 60(2), 472-489.

Vauclair, C. M., & Bratanova, B. (2017). Income inequality and fear of crime across the European region. European journal of criminology, 14(2), 221-241.

Lacey, N., & Pickard, H. (2015). To blame or to forgive? Reconciling punishment and forgiveness in criminal justice. Oxford journal of legal studies, 35(4), 665-696.

Paternoster, R. (2010). How much do we really know about criminal deterrence?. The journal of criminal law and criminology, 765-824

Rose-Ackerman, S. (2010). The institutional economics of corruption. In d. G. al., The Good Cause: Theoretical Perspectives on Corruption (pp. 47-63). Barbara Budrich Publishers.

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