Great economic inequalities cause lower levels of subjective security


The latest Edition of the Polizei Newsletter echoes a study of the relationship between economic inequalities and fear of crime in Europe[1].

Based on a prior research project, it was already plainly obvious that there was a relationship between inequalities in accordance with the level of income both in the levels of fear of crime and the use of violence. This is not so in accordance with the wealth of a society, considered globally, which does not seem to have any direct relationship with specific levels of fear of crime. In the same social context, the research had also pointed out that social structure (a higher or lower degree of immigration and minorities) and the existing social capital in a country could contribute to a higher or lower level of fear of crime (like more informal social control, less fear).

Individually, gender, age and disability or illnesses have also been related to factors with a significant influence on fear of crime, although the levels of crime related to such groups are lower than the rest of the population. Feeling weak in the face of the consequences of crime makes them feel insecure. There are also studies which speak of a greater fear of crime among members of minority ethnic groups. Lifestyle also influences the level of security; curiously, those who do more risk-related activities are the ones who feel more secure.[2]

This study was based on questions from the European Social Questionnaire, in its fourth Edition in 2008. Questions related to crime and security were kept in mind: “How safe do you feel walking out alone at night?”, “How often are you afraid of being robbed at home?”, “How often do you feel afraid of being victim of a violent crime?” To have references of income inequality they used the Gini coefficient from Eurostat, the crime data was also from Eurostat and the socioeconomic development data was obtained from the Human development index (HDI).

There results were a 90.9 per cent differences owing to individual differences, but the rest − 9.1 per cent− were due to the peculiarities of the country. Most countries with a high level of inequality present high levels of fear of crime and little subjective security. But it is important to stress that, in the countries with most inequality, it is the native majority that has most fear of crime and not the minorities, which, in principle, are most vulnerable. If, as a sole reference, we use the level of wealth of a country, there are no substantial differences in fear of crime at noteworthy levels. It is as if, in cases of maximum inequality, most fear that the minorities at the lowest levels of society are more easily prone to crime against the majority. But it is not the mere existence of minorities that generates this fear, as reflected by the fact that the percentage of non-community citizens in the country does not affect, for its own sake, the majority’s fear of crime.

[1] Publicat a l’European Journal of Criminology (2017), vol. 14 (2) 221-241.

[2] Vid. Crowl, J.N. i Battin, J.R. (2017). “Fear of crime and the police: Exploring lifestyle and individual determinants among university studies”, a Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles. Vol 90(3), pàg. 195 a 214.


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