Crime, Poverty and the Underclass
American sociologist Charles Murray was the first to develop – and put into contemporary usage – the concept of an underclass. He applied the concept to Britain during a visit in 1989.
"When I use the term 'underclass' I am indeed focusing on a certain type of poor person defined not by his condition, e.g. long term unemployed, but by his deplorable behaviour in response to that condition, e.g. unwilling to take jobs that are unavailable to him."
Murray viewed the underclass as a kind of deviant subculture, with different values to the rest of society. He believed that crime –and the rising crime rate - was a direct result of the negative values of this subculture.
Bad parenting and illegitimacy were the main causes of crime, in Murray’s view. In 1979, Britain had an illegitimacy rate of 10.6% but by 1988 this had risen to 25.6%. Illegitimate children are more common among the underclass and tend to "run wild" because they lack father role-models. The rise in illegitimacy is due to the benefits system in Britain. Changes in welfare provision make single mothers a priority for housing and receipt of benefits, therefore removing the stigma and disincentives for pursuing single motherhood. Children of fatherless families tend to lack discipline both in and out of the home. The rise of such families negatively impacts on family values throughout the whole of society.
The benefits system also has the effect of making young men not want to work, creates laziness, dependency on the State, saps moral fibre and erodes Christian ethics. This leads them towards crime, ensures the continuation of the underclass and, ultimately, causes the breakdown of communities.
Crime & Deviance
A2 Unit: G673