Socioeconomic Status and Criminal Sentencing: An Interpretive Review of the Field

Jongyeon Tark, Florida State University

This paper summarizes the research literature on the relationship between the socioeconomic status and criminal sentences since 1980. It integrates two separate research tradition on this subject. The researches on traditional crimes mostly indicate that the poor are more likely than the rich to receive harsher sentences. It observed, however, the studies on the white-collar crime report the reverse conclusion; defendants of the higher status tend to receive severer punishment than those of lower status. This article examines legal contexts and extra legal aspects of each study. It concludes that the socioeconomic status exerts minor effects on the criminal sentencing and the mixture of finding is mostly the result of research methods.

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Updated 05/20/2006