A Dollar and an American Dream: A Time-Series, Propositional Test of Institutional Anomie Theory

Robert A. Martin, Jr., University at Albany

In Crime and the American Dream, Messner and Rosenfeld (1994) explicate a theoretical inter-relationship of culture, social structure, and crime in contemporary American society. They assert that the social structure is dominated by economic concerns, while the culture is characterized by an exaggerated "fetishism of money" as the primary measure of achievement. The theoretical mechanisms through which this cultural success goal operates on crime are posited to be both direct, by encouraging people to employ technically efficient illegal means to obtain money, and indirect, by devaluing non-economic social institutions that subsequently diminishes their ability to exert social control over individual behavior. This paper will examine several propositions of institutional anomie theory using state-level, time-series data. The models estimated will investigate the effects of proxy measures of the "fetishism of money" and educational valuation on robbery rates.

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Updated 05/20/2006