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Crime­a problem for the poor

25.10.2006
It is well known that poor people are more often the victims of crime. But new research from Umeå University in Sweden shows that the poor are also more often the victims of property crimes (theft and vandalism) in the home, even though the poor have less valuable property.

“This is not because poor people often live in segregated areas or that the poor have a different life style than other people. It appears, rather, that poverty itself is the problem,” says sociologist Daniel Larsson.

In his dissertation he relates poverty to other social problems, such as unemployment, worry, and health, focusing on exposure to crime. The dissertation shows that it is very important how poverty is measured and that the most common way of measuring poverty, based on household income, is fraught with problems.

“Low income does not necessarily entail a low standard of living,” says Daniel Larsson.

Today’s low-income earners may have had a higher income previously. They might be getting economic help from family and friends or bring in money outside the Swedish tax system. The dissertation’s findings also indicate that income poverty is tied to other welfare problems only to a small degree. In the dissertation, poverty is measured as the lack of capacity to consume socially necessary goods and services.

Daniel Larsson compares the problems of poverty in Sweden with those of Finland and the UK.

“Poverty is just as widespread in Sweden as in the UK, but it is more extensive in Finland. This is a key and interesting finding since it flies in the face of earlier research based on measuring poverty in terms of household income,” says Daniel Larsson, adding that previous research has shown that poverty is more widespread in the UK, while the situation in Finland and Sweden is similar.

Moreover, exposure to crime seems to be more of a problem of poverty in Sweden than in the UK.

“In Sweden, the poor are victimized more by crime in general, whereas poor people in the UK are more exposed to property crime related to the home.”

The British fear of being victimized by crime can largely be explained by their vulnerable situation on the labor market and their economic vulnerability, which in turn generates worry. In Sweden it seems to be the case, instead, that poverty itself creates worry and fear of crime.

Karin Hertz | alfa
Further information:
http://www.diva-portal.org/umu/theses/abstract.xsql?dbid=832

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