Social Class and Crime Individuals from all social classes commit crimes; they simply commit different kinds of crimes. Persons from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to be arrested for violent and property crimes. By contrast, persons from the upper part of the class structure generally commit white-collar or elite crimes, although only a very small proportion of these individuals will ever be arrested or convicted of a crime.
What about social class and violence by youths! Between 1992 and 2006, there were 617 violent deaths
in US. schools (US. Department of Education, 2007). Most of these deaths were not attributed to lower income, inner-city youths, as popular stereotypes might suggest, Instead, a number of these acts of violence were perpetrated by young people from amuent familie
Similarly, membership in today's youth gangs cannot be identified with just one social class. Across class lines, the percentage of students reporting the presence of gangs at their school increased from 21 to 24 percent between 2003 and 2005. Twenty-five percent of students at public schools reported gang activity at their school. but only four percent of private school students reported that they had knowledge of gang members at their s~hool. 111isis not surprising. given. the fact that the U.S. Department of Education estimates that 50 percent of gang members are part of the nation's underclass-the class comprising families whose members are poor, seldom employed, and caught in patterns of long-term deprivation.
According to studies from the Department of Education, however. about 35 percent of gang members are working class. whereas IS percent are middle or upper-middle class. Today. females are more visible in both female gangs and in groups that previously were known as all-male gangs. In any case. official statistics are not always an accurate reflection of the relationship between social class and crime. Self-report data from offenders themselves may be used to gain information on family income, years of education. and occupational status; however, such reports rely on respondents to report information accurately and truthfully.