It is extremely difficult to argue against the philosophy that substantial savings on the social costs of crime could be obtained by investing in education. Empirical research repeatedly has supported the theory that the likelihood of a person committing a criminal act decreases with years of education, although research also has found that the probability of committing some types of acts (e.g., tax fraud and embezzlement) actually increases with years of education.
It is also interesting to find that more highly educated people very often have more permissive attitudes and social norms toward criminal behavior. One possible reason for this is that they are confronted less frequently with criminality and are less likely to be victims of a violent crime. It is a known fact that criminality tends to be higher in areas where less-educated people live. A second reason for more permissive attitudes and social norms toward criminality might be that more highly educated people have a more liberal worldview in general. It also is a known fact that people with higher education generally earn more than less educated people and thus have a better, and safer, quality of life.
The potential benefits of, and access to, certain types of criminal behavior simply increase as one’s earnings increase. Activities such as money laundering and insider trading often do not concern people who have no or very little funds. A second explanation is that more highly educated people are simply more knowledgeable and more informed about the possibilities of committing certain types of white-collar crimes. Thus, criminologists often point out that the key to white-collar or upper class criminal behavior is access (i.e., to funds, to inside information).
This is also true with blue-collar types of criminal behavior (e.g., shoplifting, vandalism, and violent street crimes). Research has supported the realization that most often these types of acts are committed by people with lower levels of education. One explanation is that people with less education have a “higher time discount”—that they see the future and calculate it differently than do people with more education. Moreover, they very often take into account the future consequences of their actions (punishment and sentencing) less than more highly educated people.
A final few notes on this subject should be pointed out from the discussion earlier about views on time consumption. It is argued that education leads to a lower time preference for consumption in the present and a higher time preference for consumption in the future and that, in turn, education very often teaches people to control their emotions (restraint and self-control). Most scholars hope that higher education attainment will lead to more intelligence, which will lead to more understanding of the consequences of one’s actions, whether positive or negative.
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