(courtesy thinkprogress.org)

“Poverty breeds violence,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (yes, that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) writes at time.com. “People with little or no hope of a secure future for themselves or to safely raise a family don’t have much investment in the values of those who do have hope and money.” Wait. Is KAJ justifying or (to be charitable) “explaining” firearms-involved crime by poor black people against wealthy and (am I wrong to assume?) white people? Does he not realize that gang bangers are responsible for most firearms-related violence in black communities? That aside, is poverty in and of itself a significant causal factor for “gun violence”?

62 Responses to Question of the Day: Does Poverty Create “Gun Violence”?

        • Standing O. I was born to a single mother, lived in a double wide next to her mother, finally got a house together (3 generations in probably 1500sqft), mom remarried, got our own house, they both went back to college at night while having 2 kids at home, and my parents made it. Now I’m married living the American dream at 28.

          Does poverty breed violence? Maybe, but probably not. But not being willing to succumb to your current lot in life sure helps you rise above, and never look back.

    • Agreed, but you will find more of them in neighborhoods of either extreme poverty. The Left’s “war on poverty” has failed greatly and left more people in the gutter, creating a larger breeding ground for violent criminals. Likewise, corporate welfare has created a larger breeding ground for corrupt people who pay others to do violence against innocents on their behalf.

    • I’m not justifying it but kids raised in a home where there is nothing to lose and they are constantly fed a narrative that they are wnd class citizens held down by whites and you will end up with a greater percentage of that group susceptible to social deviance. You put ice in the sun it melts, you raise kids to think they are not wanted by thier country you get criminals.

  1. No, but breakdown of the family where young men tend to gather in packs, have no assurance of paternity for their kids and therefore less attachment and less of a stake in improving society does underlie much of the violence. (let’s face it- if guns aren’t available, there will still be violence with whatever tools/means that are available).

    George Gilder’s “Men and Marriage” predicted much of today’s mess,it’s a good read.

    • Exactly. It’seems not poverty, it’s what causes the poverty. If the poverty is the result of a culture based single mothers on welfare and fatherless children then that causes violence. Back on the day, the neighborhood would shrugged of a gangbanger like Michael Brown get killed by the police for criminal behavior with. A “he got what deserved” instead celebrating him as a hero.

  2. Yes, I think poverty is one of several factors that lead to violence. People in poverty stricken areas have lower standards of living and therefore less respect for life in general.

    • I know that correlation does not prove causation. But, I believe that both evil and lack of respect for others cause both violence and poverty.

  3. Don’t want to be poor? Follow these three rules:

    1. Graduating from high school.

    2. Waiting to get married until after 21 and do not have children till after being married.

    3. Having a full-time job.

    If you do all those three things, your chance of falling into poverty is just 2 percent. Meanwhile, you’ll have a 74 percent chance of being in the middle class.

    http://jacksonville.com/opinion/editorials/2012-01-27/story/three-rules-staying-out-poverty

    • if no one around you has done any of those things but seem to be living pretty good selling drugs and robbing people chances are being a criminal will look pretty lucrative.

      • It isn’t. Anyone with half a brain and a whole ass (as opposed to half-ass) with some personal initiative can do it. If you commit to being great at your job, no matter how unpleasant it might be, you will move up the ladder – particularly if you express an interest in doing so, learning more, and undertaking more responsibility. I submit to you that most of us on this blog could start part-time at a fast food restaurant tomorrow and be managing such a restaurant within 90 days. It’s a matter of effort.

    • Walter Williams (subbing for Rush) was the first guy I ever heard mention those three and he added a fourth: don’t engage in illegal activities.

      • Most people that have a full-time job don’t engage in illegal activity, well at least the activity that actually produces victims.

    • 4. Start your own business.

      I was from a poor back ground. My dad provided room and board. Everything else, once I started working at 15, was provided by me.

      At twenty, I started a business chimney sweeping in the winter and window cleaning in the summer. I made very good money. Then, seven years later, being bored with this, I switched to Major Appliance repair. Again, I made very good money.

      Unless a person gets an advanced degree, or get a job in the trades like plumbing, HVAC or vehicle repair; they will simply be a wage slave, unless they start their own business.

  4. No. Cultures that condone and even encourage violent crime cause poverty.

    When children grow up with no responsibility and believing that they are entitled to other people’s stuff, those children have no desire to work or operate a business … and they have no reason to NOT attack others.

    Saying it another way, widespread violent crime happens when families are dysfunctional and have no inherent respect for human life. Job and business opportunities have very little to do with it.

  5. Poverty does not create crime. If it did, Bonnie and Clyde and Dillenger would have been the rule rather than the exception in the 1930’s.
    The decision to be a criminal has to do with the heart, soul, and value systems, not the availability of guns, poverty, race, or any other excuse.
    It comes down to character and personal responsibility.

  6. There are plenty of non-violent poor people. The majority in fact. No I would think it is a confluence of failing social controls. School fails, family fails, church fails, and government fails (and when I say government that can mean any form; from police, to local to federal).

  7. There are a lot of factors at play in violence and in poverty. One doesnt cause the other and one doesnt guarantee the other.

    One thing I’m happy to bet on is how much fun Flint, MI is going to have in 10 or so years now that they’ve effectively dropped the IQ of an entire generation 20 points with their lead pipe water system. Want to see violence, crime and poverty at triple third-world levels? Aim the binoculars at Flint and get comfortable.

  8. I grew up being raised by a single mother for a while. Most of my childhood we were poor. I never felt the need to hurt other folks and take their stuff, not even the ‘rich kids’. Then again, I also read well and had a mother who was involved in my education. Later on I had a step-father who took a rather keen, and sometimes percussive, interest in my education as well.
    I took my future in hand, joined the military, served for several years, and now work in a tech industry that allows me to feed and house my family with an occasional vacation from time to time. Oh, and occasionally buy and build guns.
    No, I don’t buy what Kareem is selling.

  9. As always, it’s complicated, but YES. While some are “evil” and have made a choice to do the acts that make them so, there are reasons they made those choices. If we could have altered those reasons, we could have altered those choices. Psychology is NOT excusology, but we are products of genetics and environment. The greatest evidence is the genetics matter most for those who have all of their basic needs met, and environment matters most for those who do not. Black, white, hispanic, asian, native, or other doesn’t matter. Broken homes, drugs, crime, failing schools, and poverty are not easy to solve, but that should be the focus. And before the more strict, “you are either good or bad” types argue, realize this removes guns from the equation because they are just tools. This should be the focus we want, friends. Gun grabbers want new legislation because they can say they “did something.” Do something that matters and fix the CAUSES not the SYMPTOMS. Violence, gang activity, substance abuse, and all repetitive criminal behavior are symptoms.

  10. Irrational decision making causes crimes. In the 21st century america it’s very difficult to walk away after committing crimes. They just won’t learn not to break the laws that they cannot afford to break, making both the victims and the criminals themselves worse off.

  11. Poverty does not create violence. Being hungry does. I doubt any regular readers here will understand this.

    But, when you are cold, tired and hungry…when the only things in your fridge are ice cubes and condiments (with your paycheck 8 days away)… does taking by force become an option? Not right away.

    You beg and borrow money to eat. McDonalds has a dollar menu (why do you think the homeless are fat?)

    Live like that long enough… And, oh yes…it becomes an option.

    Create oppurtunity, reduce the desperation.

    Reduce desperation, give people space to breathe.

    People can breathe, they can think.

    • You beg and borrow money to eat. McDonalds has a dollar menu (why do you think the homeless are fat?)
      You do know that my Mom went years through the depression with only bread and milk for meals. The milk came from the cows that the family had and she took care of. All real crops from the farm went for money or the other farm animals that the family had for generating currency. McDonalds meals are a luxury item.

  12. Poverty alone doesn’t cause violence but it definitely is a major contributor. For every one that says they grew up “poor” and turned out fine(my self included), there’s probably 5-10 other kids who ended up a criminal. You will never see a upper-class community in any city that is overrun with drugs and violence. Its a cycle, people with a poor up bringing tend to repeat that cycle for the most part and people with a upper or middle class up bringing will be just that, with a few exceptions of course.

  13. No, poverty breeds the FSA. The majority just wants to stay on the government dole and continue the cycle.

    There are some that do their best to get out of the hole. We don’t hear the stories more.

  14. Race more strongly correlates with violent crime rates than any other factor:

    http://i.imgur.com/sUlc40E.jpg

    Gun murder rates would literally plummet by 97% if we sent the blacks back to Africa and the “Hispanics” (Amerinds/Mestizos) back to Mexico:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/06/nypd-report-details-crime_n_1862771.html

    A global trend:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

    Something is clearly wrong with black people and “Hispanics” on a genetic level.

  15. Nope. People who think their little angel “didn’tdonuffin’ ” are the main problem. Ya’ know back in the 1940’s Cabrini Green in Chicago(a notorious gubmint boondoggle for the uninformed) was a housing project just opening. It was mixed race and required 2 parent families. Misbehavior was not tolerated either(I knew a white lady attorney who grew up there).And violent crime was quite low despite poverty. That and everyone looked out for one another and reported back to the parents. Look at the current blame everything but myself culture(especially the po-leece who shoot you in commission of a crime). Jabbar is full of shite…

  16. Poverty causes crime? Well, since (according to Obamamama) Europe has so much less gunmurderdeath that the US, that must mean that there are way fewer poor people in Europe. The conclusion is unmistakable!

    What else does the US have that Europe doesn’t? Guns! So guns must cause crime!

    What else does the US have that Europe doesn’t? Gangs! Like Crips, Bloods and MS-13! But that’s just a coincidence!

  17. Poverty creates desperation and desperation can create violence.

    Then again we all have freewill, so its a matter of choice in the end. You can also argue conditioning can play a part in it as well.

  18. The main thing to understand is that most of the murders are rational in the context of the environment they are committed, not irrational. Most murder happens as a result of business conflicts which occur in illegal economies. Few murders are “crimes of passion”. If you go down the list of “mass shootings” that anti-gun groups provide and look up the news articles and follow up articles the vast majority are directly related to gangs or other criminal activity. Very few are crimes of passion.

    There are always conflicts which arise in the course of doing business. So much so that our society has built non-violent conflict resolution mechanisms so that these conflicts can be settled without killing each other, like we used to do before we built modern societies. There are also always risks associated with doing business. Our society has built institutions to mitigate these risks non-violently.

    In an illegal market, the stakes are as high in legal markets, in some cases higher. Economists have shown that most people involved in illegal markets make less than minimum wage. Competition could mean going hungry or being homeless.

    Now what happens when you have an understanding, a contract with someone while conducting illegal business and they violate it? You can’t sue them in a court. You can’t rely on any of our non-violent conflict resolution methods to seek justice, you are excluded from these institutions. So you have to kill them. If you have a non-compete agreement with a competitor in an illegal market, where do you turn to seek justice if it is violated? No where, you have to take care of it the age-old way using the old methods, you have to use violence. What do you do to mitigate the risk of theft if you work in an illegal market? You can’t get business services from a bank, you can’t take credit cards or wire money from place to place. You have to deal in cash and have to carry it, and that cash is a target of theft. People will “tool up” to take it from you by force, and you have to “tool up” to defend it. What about your merchandise? Can you put it in a secured alarmed warehouse, will you call the police if someone breaks in? No, you don’t have access to any of these luxuries of modern society, you need to rely on violence.

    Even more, you need to have a reputation for willingness to use violence or else others will quickly use it against you to get you out of the competition. People get shot, stabbed, and beaten to death as a direct consequence of illegal business disputes every day, just like people get sued as a direct consequence of legal business disputes every day. This isn’t even that wild a notion, but so many of us are so removed from it we don’t even consider it.

    It also makes sense that that non-business disputes in the youth of these communities are seen being “resolved” in using the same violence, for example kids killing each other over some perceived social slight at school. We are not surprised when a rich kid begins dressing a certain way in high school, when he adopts political or social savvy and a value system emulating the powerful or successful people in his world. Are we surprised when they exhibit political cunning at a young age and use it to exact revenge on their school yard enemies for perceived slights? Are we surprised when they threaten to sue each other on the schoolyard? Why does the kid in the poverty stricken community surprise us when he begins auditioning at a young age for what opportunities are available to him, but it doesn’t surprise us when the rich kid does the same?

    Conservatives are accused of exhibiting a “soft racism” in the form of “I don’t care” because “I don’t live there”. It seems to me that the majority of liberals exhibit a subtler yet more insidious form of racism… they don’t respect that this violence is actually rational in the context of the economy that the people who suffer it are stuck in. Gun control proposals assume that “if only it was a bit harder for these people to kill each other, they would kill each other less”. That’s totally patronizing and dismissive of the reality of the situation. It assumes that the people involved are intellectually or emotionally inferior and are killing each other because they have no self-control. This is not true.

    The violence won’t change with gun regulations because the conflicts it resolves won’t go away with gun regulations. Take away every legal gun from every law-abiding person in the country, shut down every gun store, and the guns which are essential business tools in illegal economies will come in and be traded the same way the essential illegal merchandise comes in and is traded. Shut down every gun manufacturer and they will be manufactured in machine shops illegally because they are necessary business tool and those adequate enough for this purpose also happen to be trivially simple to make. If anything it will empower the illegal economies to expand.

    • Exactly. The greatest way to reduce the violence and “save lives” is to get rid of the illegal market. End the drug prohibition. Not just the pot either. All of it. This would do more to stop crime and end the police state than any other thing or group of things that anyone could dream up. We could lay off whole government departments, quit enriching our very violent friends south of the border, curtail police powers expanded in the name of the war on drugs, and kill the whole thug culture in one fell swoop. Ending prohibition would go a long way towards making this country truly a land of the free.

  19. People can’t just go to school, stay in school, get good grades, graduate, then work fast food for minimum wage. If you think so try it. If you won’t you know it’s near impossible without a network of family, society and government supports. It takes each person’s free will of course.

    My friend has a degree is white and a woman. She isn’t having any response to her resumes’. She interviews well. She said she understands how hard it would be to get out of homelessness, now. She can get to an interview is washed and has clean very nice clothes. She has a house and car.

    There are many issues that no politician’s one liners can fix. Dems policies are responsible. Repubs policies are responsible. It takes the state and the individual.

    How many college educated millennials now live at home? Without their parents support where would they be? No food, no house, tattered clothes, no gas, no money, no internet….

  20. Actually, Stefan Molyneux showed that there is a very small correlation between poverty and homicide rates. The actual correlation is the black percentage of the population. It’s not a PC conclusion to draw, but the reality is that US “black culture” is inherently toxic. Interestingly when a society is properly integrated and the ethnic ratios match the national average, the violent crime and homicide rates plummet.

    • but the reality is that US “black culture” is inherently toxic. I came to that conclusion a long time ago. It seems blacks who are adopted or live amongst whites are less messed up than those brought up in the pure black urban environment.

    • Nice to know someone else on here watches Molyneux’s channel. His videos are the best medicine to combat the frustration of living in a hyper-sensitive PC world filled with useful idiots.

    • without buying into PC tiptoeing on the subject of race, could you not say that “thug culture” of whatever racial background is more likely to contribute to violence than poverty?

  21. All my friends are broke.
    We all got records from stealing/selling drugs.
    None of us can get jobs because of our records.
    Only way to make money is to steal/sell drugs.

    Easy to point a finger and say get a job; easier to do when some in the community acrually do that — ignore the negative influences and get up and get out.

    I believe it starts with parenting/family. If you cant get a positive influence from home, the streets/schools are more than ready to fill the void with a negative one!

  22. I guess this is one of those mistakes that both parties make. Liberal mouthpieces fail to recognize that the individual maintains ultimate responsibility for their options, otherwise all homeless would be felons as a matter of course. But many conservatives seem blind that an individual’s situation does affect their decisions. If one grows up in a culture where criminals seem like the only ones living above subsistence level, then that legitimizes crime. Same if one goes long enough without food or a roof over their head.

  23. Um, guys? Pocket the winnings and walk away. Bring up the other “poverty” issue another time.

    He said “violence” vs “gun violence” and suggested a reason other than bitterly clinging ‘extremist’ white folks in tricorn hats. Haven’t we be ranting that it ain’t the guns, it’s the violence. And it ain’t the legal gun owners with permanently tumescent tacti-cool memeber-substitutes … it’s something else.

    Take the win. Lock it in.

  24. No. Numerous criminal justice studies have proven that poverty and the economy actually have little impact on crime.

  25. An anecdote: my wife grew up in the infamous wild, anarchal 90s in Russia. Like most of her generation, poverty was the name of the game. Her parents worked…hard…to build a fairly successful small business. The problem was that their hard work and long hours hindered their parenting of her older brother. Often, he would be left to his own devices while the parents worked slavishly to make ends meet and bring them financial success. Both my wife’s parents are principled, salt-of-the earth people, but they failed to instill these values in their son. Furthermore, with the rise of the gangster culture in Moscow, Pasha began to look at his father as a fool and a coward for busting his ass to make money the “right” way while others made it the “easy” way. Long story short, he turned to crime at an early age, and ultimately killed two of his girlfriends in seperate reckless vehicular crashes before ending his own brief life. Such stories are unfortunately commonplace in Russia, and in many of the poorer areas of the world.

    Poverty is neither a virtue nor a vice, but it can create conditions conducive to criminal activity. That’s the way I see it, at any rate.

  26. Morality & virtue are luxuries that are not always affordable in times of sufficient desperation. The poor have always been more violent than their ‘betters,’ globally. They have always had to make more compromises on every issue, and every action. Morality & virtue are also not qualities that exist naturally in the human soul, and once defeated, do not quickly recover. Especially when the structures entrusted with their upkeep have been systematically attacked and eroded by fifty years of social policy, in the hope the Government could take their place.

    Confine the poor in crowded cities with little opportunity, destroy their community social structures with amoral state-run alternatives, destroy the family unit with state-run subsidies that reward dependency & itinerant breeding, and instill in the place of morality an all-consuming fear & hatred of the world and people outside the city walls, and you have a captive voting bloc held in bondage for perpetuity. It’s a lot of work for an arrangement that is normally obtained by simply having more guns & bloodlust than your competition, but it works the same way.

  27. Was raised poor never had an urge to be criminal

    Got an education never got a great wage. Managed to stay working and raise a family

    Never wealthy , sometimes in very low income, but still never embraced violence or criminal activity.

    So dont buy that argument

  28. “Poverty breeds violence,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (yes, that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) writes at time.com. “People with little or no hope of a secure future for themselves or to safely raise a family don’t have much investment in the values of those who do have hope and money.”
    If a lot of guns and a lot of poverty are the problem with high crime, violence, and killings, then many places in rural and small town America should look like an ISIS blood bath battlefield.

  29. Lack of morals and how you treat others, lack of responsibility for ones actions, lack of the responsibility to work, all of which are instilled by parent figures (not at school) drives violence. These are permitted and perpetuated by the welfare state, allowing many to live in idle bliss on there dime, with no need or drive to pursue the responsibility of a job and income, and allowing a mentality of “they owe me”, what is not given to me shall be taken.

  30. “That aside, is poverty in and of itself a significant causal factor for “gun violence”?”

    Data seems to suggest that no, poverty only has a weak (and sometimes negative) correlation with gun violence. There is another factor that has a very very strong correlation with gun violence though.

  31. Yes, but the poverty in question isn’t what Kareem thinks it means, but the cultural, intellectual, and spiritual poverty roiling black communities for decades, courtesy of the people pretending to serve its interests. None so blind as those who won’t see.

    Funny thing, there’s a rundown trailer park a few miles from my home. Know what happens there regarding its apparent poverty? Nothing. Kareem needs to stay in his lane—sports—and never leave.

    • “Yes, but the poverty in question isn’t what Kareem thinks it means, but the cultural, intellectual, and spiritual poverty roiling black communities for decades, courtesy of the people pretending to serve its interests. None so blind as those who won’t see.”

      Given that the phenomenon of blacks being responsible for significantly higher levels of violent crime is global and not only seen in African American black culture it looks suspiciously like genetic poverty may play a significant role. But you aren’t supposed to say or think that or else progressives will call you naughty words.

  32. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_the_United_States

    The US Census declared that in 2010 15.1% of the general population lived in poverty:[43]
    9.9% of all white persons
    12.1% of all Asian persons
    26.6% of all Hispanic persons (of any race)
    28.4% of all black persons.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States
    223.5m Whites
    39m Blacks

    9.9% of 223.5m = 22m poor whites.
    28.4% of 39m = 11m poor blacks.

    There are twice as many poor whites in America as there are poor blacks, and yet, blacks commit half or more of the homicides in America, year in, year out:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_crime_in_the_United_States

    “According to the US Department of Justice, blacks accounted for 52.5% of homicide offenders from 1980 to 2008, with whites 45.3% and “Other” 2.2%. The offending rate for blacks was almost 8 times higher than whites, and the victim rate 6 times higher. Most homicides were intraracial, with 84% of white victims killed by whites, and 93% of black victims killed by blacks.”

    (Note: “Whites” here includes “Hispanic Whites.” The DOJ has long rolled “Hispanics” into the “White” category when it came to perps (“Hispanics” were “conveniently” broken out in victim categories). It was only this year that the DOJ stopped this obfuscatory practice and began breaking out “Hispanics” in perpetrator categories, too.)

    But really, the “poverty causes crime” mantra is a red herring. Murder knows no socioeconomic boundaries. Rich people, poor people, people in-between, they all contribute to the murder rolls. And the racial realities of murder, economic status aside, are pretty stark. As I said, a small fraction of the population (the small share of America’s 12% black population that is also young, urban, and male) commits more than half of the murders year in, year out.

  33. Muslim terrorists are almost always well off, sons of Saudi sheiks and such. The “impoverished youth” terrorists in the ghettos have solid gold teeth and diamond covered IPHONES. Meanwhile there are no Chicago style gang murders going on in Appalachia. The cure for all these criminal terrorists is a 40SW to the back of the head.

  34. Inner-city/urban violence…generally gang violence…is a symptom of a culture. A culture that has evolved, over generations. Two leading contributors to this are a) welfare policy the incentivizes single parent families and b) the war on drugs that provides, for those with little or no hope of employment outside of this culture, a method of supporting themselves via black market trade. The solution will require a wholesale revision of societies approach to the issue and will require additional generations to be affected.

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