Does poverty cause violence and the collapse of the family?

There is a mass of data that demonstrates the link between violence, defragmented famillies and unemployment in the poorest areas. But are these symptoms of the impoverished a result of their living situation, or are they a cause of it?

You could easily be forgiven for thinking that this poverty is the result of the above problems, and many more. But a study by Richard Wilkinson in The Impact of Inequality actually contradicts this idea. unequal societies are broken societies, all of whose members suffer. Violence is more common in societies where income differences are larger, not just in things like murder rates, but in low-level arguments, racial hostility, and antisocial behaviour. Communities are more fragile in less equal societies. And political participation is lower, and political institutions less effective, in less equal societies. Wilkinson shows how it is the stress, competition and exclusion generated by living in a highly unequal society that underlies these outcomes.

What do you think? Richard Tawney, the famous historian, once said ‘we need the equal start as well as the open road’ if equality of opportunity is to mean anything. With the problems of poverty in today’s society, does he have a valid point? Should we seek to redress natural inequalities that exist within society, in order to mend the problems we face? Is violence, defragmented communities and poor political participation going to continue in these areas until we find a solution to natural inequality?

2 thoughts on “Does poverty cause violence and the collapse of the family?

  1. Just imagine if it’s feelings of frustration over the pay-gap? …

    I’d also argue that those living from paycheck to paycheck don’t have very much to loose. Wouldn’t not having a morgage, bonus coming up or apparent future make it MUCH EASIER to be violent?

    Contrary to the above, It’s important to realise that more violent crime does occur in poor areas.

    “people in the poorest areas were six times more likely to be murdered than those in the richest. ” (BBC news article ‘
    Recession ‘boosted murder rates’ – Monday, 17 October 2005.

    Also, The number of violent crimes in London rose by 7,400 over the last year to 186,188 offences. (Statistic from:

  2. Poverty in the home may be part of the cause of Violence in the home.
    People are frustrated and desperate- if they are inpoverished then they suffer so much strain and anguish in everyday living.

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