An experimental-causal-chain design to explore three mechanisms linking economic inequality and crime

Eran Itskovich*, Roni Factor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Scholars have proposed several underlying mechanisms to explain the relationship between economic inequality and crime. However, these mechanisms have not been empirically tested. This study empirically tests the causal paths offered by three salient mechanisms through which economic inequality may affect crime: negative emotions, social distance, and social resistance. We applied a randomized controlled trial with an experimental-causal-chain design in two studies. In Study 1 we manipulated economic inequality and examined its effect on both the mediating variables and crime, operationalized as cheating behavior. In Study 2 we manipulated the mediating variable found to be associated with economic inequality in Study 1 (social resistance), and examined its effect on cheating. Our findings support the social resistance mechanism, while there is no evidence supporting the negative emotions (operationalized here as anger) and social distance mechanisms. These findings suggest that economic inequality breeds crime by producing perceptions of discrimination and alienation, leading individuals to actively express their dissatisfaction through crime.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number102190
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Volume92
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Anger
  • Crime
  • Economic inequality
  • Relative deprivation
  • Social distance
  • Social resistance

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