Sociology Research Paper on Education and Crime

Education and Crime


Education has been held as a strong pillar in the growth of the economy. Scholars have also studied effects of education on other aspects of life. This paper looks at the effects of education on crime by establishing how education impacts on crime. It evaluates the three significant impacts of education on crime mainly, the income effect, time availability and patience and risk aversion nature of educated people. The major benefit of education has been to increase the ability to earn legit income. This reduces the probability that one will be attracted to criminal practices.

The United States of America and the Kingdom republic of Saudi Arabia are two different nations whose policies on education are greatly varying. International reports have portrayed Saudi Arabia as a relatively safe place in comparison to the US. This paper compares and contrasts the incidences of crimes in the two countries. It also evaluates their policies on education and relates them to prevalence of crime. The paper seeks to find out whether education has contributed to reduced crime rates in Saudi Arabia.


            Traditionally, education has been endorsed for its benefits to the individual student by enhancing their future earnings. Many people have ignored the social returns to education, and instead, uphold the private returns. The society has had the notion that benefits of schooling can only be drawn from the curriculum course studied. People underestimate the values acquired from the hidden school curriculum that includes honesty, hard work and good citizenship. Other than expanding an individual’s income capacity, education has also been proved to have elements of social returns to the society. One of the social benefits of education as proved by Machin and others is its contribution in reducing crimes (2010). Although many scholars are enthusiastic to establish the private returns on education, as opposed to the social returns, analysts have proven that the level of education attained has a negative correlation to the probability of committing crime (Lochner & Moretti, 2001). This research paper will relate the effects of education on crime. It also provides a comprehensive comparison of education and crime in the United States of America (USA) and Saud Arabia.

How Education Impacts on Crime

            Socio-economists have deduced that education may have a negative impact on crime; however, it may not necessarily change one decision to participate in crime (Lochner & Moretti, 2001). To begin with, the income effect of education is an uncontested theory in explaining how schooling reduces incidences of crime. According to Lochner and Moretti, education increases the returns from legitimate sources; increasing the opportunity cost of crimes. An educated person has a higher probability of being in a salaried employment or a successful business venture. Thus, he/she is not likely to be tempted by easy income from crimes. The dual further notes that educated people would find the time spent in custodies more costly with respect to the high wage that they would otherwise be earning.

            In addition to higher future income, schooling ensures that children and young adult spends a lot of their time in a learning institution. They, thus, have little time to loom in the streets where they can acquire criminal behaviors. A study by Witte and Tauchen (1994), established that the time spent at school or work in a year is negatively correlated to the probability of getting arrested in that year. Since the need to commit crime is an acquired attribute, exposing young children to criminal activities will increase their likelihood of obtaining the crude behavior. After graduations, moreover, educated people are more likely to join formal employment where they identify themselves with a particular social class. Among the educated class in the society, criminals are despised; thus, the stigma from an earlier imprisonment is high. A person may not be fully accepted back to the society after serving a term in prison. Individuals will, therefore, avoid any crime in fear of being segregated by their fellows.

            Education has also been proved to shape a person’s attitude, making them more patient and risk averse. Lochner and Moretti explain that educated people are patient and ready to wait for future returns (2001). They also tend to be risk averse and thus tend to be cautious about the cost of future punishments. On the other hand, school dropouts are myopic and only think instant result. For example, they view schooling in terms of strict curricula, exhausting tests and foregone earning opportunities, as opposed to how it prepares them for future careers.

            Conversely, education has also been found to increase particular forms of crime. There are specific crimes that require skills to implement such as cybercrimes and electronic frauds. These crimes- also referred to as ‘white collar crimes’ are organized by highly qualified professionals. According to Machin et al (2010), education may also increase the earnings from criminal activities while reducing the probability of getting caught since the culprits have a high mastery of the technical procedures involved. It is estimated that a rise in average education level may lead to an associated 11 percent increase in white-collar arrests (Witte & Tauchen, 2004). However, this positive effect of education on crimes is marginally insignificant.

Education and Crime in the US

            The rates of crime in the US have reduced considerably over the last decades. According to the annual Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Report (UCR) the rates of crime in the past 20 years had reduced by half by the 2012 (2013). However, the FBI reports that the prevalence of both violent and property crimes around in the US is alarming. Some states are more prone to crime than others are; in addition, various crimes such as rape, homicide are more prevalent in some states. For example, the homicides with firearms in California were 12 times as much as those reported in Washington in 2012.

            The cost of crimes in the US is substantially high and a real burden to the government budget. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, the local governments spend over $200 billion on crime related cases per year (2013). This excludes the overall burden of crime in the society, which includes loss of properties, lives, expenses of medical care and the unquantifiable trauma following criminal attacks. The government has also registered huge losses comprising of a decline in tax as a result of crime related deaths, bloating police payrolls and the cost of administering the increased number of criminal court cases. The country is, obliged to look for ways to minimize crime activities. One of effective method of curbing the rates of crime in the US has been by increasing the number of post high school graduates, increasing the self-reliant population.

            Distribution of violent crimes around the states in the US is negatively correlated to the level of education attained by the residents. According to an analysis by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), states with high proportion of the population with high school diplomas had lower incidences of violent crimes (2007). In their study, the JPI further established that states with higher rates of college enrollment reported less violent crimes. The overall JPI analysis reveals that the more a given state invests in education, the lower the amount spent on crimes. For example, North Carolina realized a 5.9% decline in crimes between 2000 -2005, the period within which it increased its average cost of education by 45%. Over the same period, Tennessee, which had increased its investment in education by 1.7%, reported an increase of 6.4% (JPI, 2007, p.5).

            Studies have identified a significant contribution of public education in reducing crimes since majority crime convicts are uneducated. For example, 75 percent of prison inmates in the US in 1997 had not completed high school education (JPI, 2007). According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, investing in public education would go a long way in solving crime challenges than investing in security personnel. The typical cost of educating a single student in the US today approximates to $12,643. This is relatively low compared to the average annual cost of maintaining an inmate, which is $28,323. The Alliance for Excellent Education further established that increasing the male graduation rate by 10% could reduce murder and assault case by at least 20% and theft and robbery cases by 13% (2013 p2). This can save the nation a devastating figure of $19.7 billion annually.

            The US federal government has devolved its education system, in which education policies and curriculum are set at a state government’s level. However, the respective state policies are geared towards ensuring that the maximum social returns to education are enjoyed. To begin with, various states have set a compulsory age starting from 5 to 8 and ending at 16 to 18 years through which a child should be confined in a school (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2013). This ensures that children are not only taught good morals in school, but also have minimal exposure to the wrong doers in the streets. Obligatory education has also been found to increase the literacy level in the US to approximately 99%. According to analysts, increased literacy is among the factors that have contributed to reduced crime rates in the US.

Education and Crime in Saudi Arabia

The crime rates in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been reporting low due to their strict observation of the Muslim religion. However, the crime analysts Sheptycki and others’ research work has disputed this presumption (2012). In their book Transnational and Comparative Criminology, Sheptycki et al has revealed that crime rate in Saudi Arabia is not as low as reported by the country’s government. According to him, several crimes go unreported since the citizens have no trust with the rudimentary judicial process. However, foreign ministries of different countries are in concurrence that crime rate in Saudi Arabia is low compared to other developed countries.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, despite the heavy punishment on crime offenders, reports cases of, drug trafficking, murder, theft and terrorism. However, the rate of these crimes in Saudi Arabia is relatively lower than in the US. While the crime index in the US stands at 50.52 %, in Saudi Arabia it is only 31% (Peiffer, 2004). Nonetheless, some crimes are more common in Saudi Arabia than in the US. For example, rape is among the most prevalent crimes in Saudi Arabia but least reported in the US. There is scant information about rape cases since majority of the victims do not report. This is because, victims do not anticipate getting justice from the court cases, in some cases, the rape victim may be punished while the culprit is set free. . For example, a 19-year-old rape victim was found guilty of immorality and jailed for six months, and with 100 lashes when she alleged having been raped by seven men.

            The Saudi Arabia’s major methods of curbing crimes are through strict rules and regulations, imposing tough punishment to offenders and investing on police forces. According to Peiffer (2004) judicial system of Saudi Arabia has been criticized by human rights activists all over the world. The Kingdom is among the few nations that practice human execution to date. If arrested of what they categorize as major crimes, which includes drug trafficking, sorcery and witchcraft, the law authorizes your execution. Other crimes also attract a fine of instant hand chopping. Of concern, are the claims that crime suspects are not given fair hearing. They are denied the opportunity to be represented by an attorney and are often tortured and forced to plead guilty.         

            While various governments identify the power of education in curbing crimes, there is no available data to prove that the government of Saudi Arabia recognizes the effect of education on crime. They, however, emphasize on the need of quality education for the growth of the economy. Their education curriculum is highly dominated by the Islam teachings aimed at equipping the learners with a deep knowledge of Qu’ran. The religious focus of the Saudi Arabian education system is, according to sociologists, propagating the philosophy of hate towards non-Muslims. It is designed to make the learners believe Muslims are at war with other religions. Thus, it increases the rates of crime in the Kingdom through promoting Islamism terrorism.

            Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is controlled by three different authorities namely the Ministry of Education, the General Organization for technical Education and the Ministry of Higher Education (Hamdan, 2005). Unlike in the United States where education is compulsory, education in Saudi Arabia is optional. Parents are at liberty to decide whether to send their children to school. This has contributed to high illiteracy level in the country where only 84.7% of men and 70.8% of women are literate. Studies in other parts of the world have concluded that high illiteracy level in the community may increase crime rates (Peiffer 2004). Illiteracy could, therefore, be a causative factor of crimes in Saudi Arabia.

            Until recently, education arrangement in Saudi Arabia was segregated along sex divide. According to Hamdan (2005), boys are regarded as according to the Muslim teachings and are thus given special education. Contrary to the US where boys and girls are taught in the same class, education in Saudi Arabia is administered as three different systems, which include boys, girls, and the traditional Muslim education for boys. This division instills the vice of gender discrimination in young boys, which they are likely to hold on to adulthood. The view that women are inferior and should be subjective to men has been cited as a factor that contributes to high incidences of rape crimes in Saudi Arabia (Hamdan, 2005). Notably, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia needs to work on its education systems and its response to crime. Although the rates of crime are considerably low in Saudi as compared to the US, their approach and the policies that have seen reduced crimes are not recommendable. The punishments of chopping hands and killing are uncivilized and inhumane. Furthermore, studies on human execution have not proved that it significantly reduces crimes. Their justice system has also been flawed to its unprocedural practices. Generally, any human being should be given a fair hearing and suspects need to be treated as innocent until proven otherwise.

            The government of Saudi Arabia’s main objective of the education system is to leap the private returns on education. They aim at developing religion, values while expanding their children’s capacity. However, they need to wake up to the social returns to education. Instead of the high cost of increasing police presence in the streets as a way of curbing crimes, they can increase their investment. This will see them kill two birds with one stone since increasing the literacy level will benefit the country both economically and socially.


            Education is a powerful tool in the reduction of crime rates. Investing in education may considerably reduce the incidences of crimes in a country. The effects of education on crimes is a long term venture since educating today’s generation culminates to a safe and secure tomorrow. Education contributes to reduced crime rates by increasing one’s income from legitimate sources, reducing the time available to learn and execute crime and changing one’s attitude towards crime. While education itself has not proven to affect one’s decision on whether to participate in crime, several studies have established a negative correlation between education and crime.

            The education system in the US is slightly different from the system in Saudi Arabia. The major difference identified in this paper, however, is their attitudes towards education. The US is consciously trying to leap both the social and economic benefits of education. They use education as a tool to fight crimes among other social vices. In contrast, Saudi Arabia uses education to propel their religious culture, a factor that has indirectly fuelled crimes. Although Saudi Arabia is allegedly among the religions with reduced crime rates, it is important to note that most of the crimes in this kingdom are not reported. Their methods of controlling crimes are outdated and needs to be reformed.


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