Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The effect of education on crime

For any educated person, opening a newspaper on a given day acquaints them with the news around and about. Interestingly, as many of us must have noticed, a lot of this is bad news, which is overwhelmingly more than good news. Reports about crime, unfortunate events and losses make up most of the newspaper’s ink and the same is the case online. AS to the curious mind who says, why does this happen, the answer is rather counter-intuitive – there are a lot of normal, peaceful events happening around us but crime makes up for the news fodder. But where does this crime originate? Are we living in the worst time yet, where riots, rapes and murders make up the society?
Yes and no. Although the rate of crimes has historically dropped over time in human civilization and we live in the most peaceful times in history (with fewest wars and casualties), there are still unjust amounts of thievery, cheating and scandals happening despite having stringent laws for all these. And this, not surprisingly, is related to education.
We almost make an instant connection of illiteracy with crime and vice versa but there are two sides to this coin: 1) Not all criminals are uneducated – take Suresh Kalmadi, Vijay Mallya, and the Unabomber etc. So there is obviously no reason to brand all criminals as uneducated barbarians. 2) Lack of education results in a bigger problem and that has significant effects on crime rates. This important problem is poverty.
Poverty directly puts perspective for people wading through it, as the easiest way for survival is to commit small crimes to get by. These often result in bigger ones and because there are no means to hide it, crimes by people below the poverty line get reported and closed by law enforcement agencies easily. Compare this to crimes by people of a higher social and educational strata – they have much better means to hide a crime, get corrupt authorities on their side and get away with immoral acts.
Education may be the single largest cause of the crime menace in third world countries, but it is certainly not the only reason. Take villages as an example. India, being a primarily rural country, a major chunk of it lives in suburban or rural areas.
These small villages have tight communities and they all respect each other’s space, lives and property. Even though agrarian societies do not boast of high education statistics, their crimes rates are miraculously lower than any given city! What stresses out the city mentality so much that it turns to the ultimate mode of survival?
Increase in education numbers is a step closer to a near perfect society, like the first world peaceful nations of the amazing Scandinavian countries.
As a developing nation, we are fighting everyday to make the place a little safer, a little more bearable and a little happier. Education drives out poverty and basic living standards will do the trick. There is indeed a long way between us and a Universal Basic Income to feed all mouths, but till then, the marriage of literacy with ethics is what the need of the hour is.
Children can be easily influenced, making it highly important for them to have positivity around them, but the education system in India pushes them into working small jobs where they could come across agents of exploitation who use them for illegal purposes.
Education increases work opportunities and therefore discourages criminal activity. Going to school or college has a direct incapacitation consequence and the opportunity cost from imprisonment increases with higher educational attainment. Think of a person with a PhD, who spent years to get the degree, or a young man who finished his engineering and is now working with a reputed IT firm. The risk of them following the path of crime is not as high as that of somebody who has a history of being excluded from school.
Lack of education pushes people into crime, however, does not mean that people with higher educational attainment have other characteristics that turn them less criminal-minded. They are just at a lower risk of becoming an offender.
Naro Aier, Kohima