An assessment of adults’ views on white-collar crime

Author:Thomas E. Dearden
Position:Department of Criminal Justice, High Point University, High Point, USA
Pages:309-321
SUMMARY

Purpose This paper aims to update our understanding of the public’s opinion of white-collar crime and explains perceptions of white-collar crime using self-interest, political affiliation and in-group/out-group characteristics. Design/methodology/approach A state-wide phone survey of adults in North Carolina was conducted, and 421 adults responded. They provided their views of... (see full summary)

 
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An assessment of adults’ views
on white-collar crime
Thomas E. Dearden
Department of Criminal Justice, High Point University, High Point, USA
Abstract
Purpose This paper aims to update our understanding of the public’s opinion of white-collar crime and
explains perceptions of white-collar crime using self-interest, political afliation and in-group/out-group
characteristics.
Design/methodology/approach A state-wide phone survey of adults in North Carolina was
conducted, and 421 adults responded. They provided their views of white-collar crime, the need for
government intervention and whether they were more concerned about white-collar crime in the public or
private sector.
Findings In the survey, 74 per cent of the responders agreed or strongly agreed that white-collar crime is
one of the leading problems in this decade, and 74 per cent of the responders suggested that it is not being
adequately addressed by our legislators. Evidence suggests that individuals who are conservative, have high
condence in their economic circumstances or are demographically similar to stereotypical white-collar
criminals perceive white-collar crime to be less of a problem than individuals without these characteristics.
Originality/value This study shows that perceptions of the dangers of white-collar crime have increased
since its inception. Additionally, this study extends our understanding about why certain demographics are
more likely to care (and why high-ranking politicians are less likely to care) about white-collar crime.
Keywords White-collar crime, Consumer sentiment, Perceptions of crime
Paper type Research paper
Literature review
Since its inception, white-collar crime has had a tumultuous history. In coining the phrase,
Sutherland (1940,1945,1983)attempted to focus attention on crimes committed by those of
privilege or the upper class. Early in white-collar crime research, few scholars seemed to
consider it a signicant problem. Cullen et al. (2009, p. 33) described those who researched
white-collar crime as “[…] marginal men and women of their discipline, scholars [who] had
the challenge of persuading observers that their object of inquiry – white collar crime – was
a serious social problem”.
Early perception studies suggested that the public also thought that white-collar crime
was not as serious as other forms of crime (Cullen et al., 1982;Geis, 1973;Rossi and Henry,
1980). One early study suggested that white-collar crime was one of the least important
crimes, just ahead of crimes of public nuisance (Rossi and Henry, 1980). Yet, a follow-up
study suggested that white-collar crime was more important than initially thought (Cullen
et al., 1982). In trying to remedy seemingly contradictory studies, Schrager and Short (1978)
found that the degree of harm was more important in assigning the seriousness of a crime
rather than labels such as white-collar crime.
Following this early research, there have been a plethora of large-scale white-collar crimes
and examples of organizational corruption, such as the Savings and loan scandal, Dot-com
bubble, Madoff scandal and the nancial crisis of 2007. Due to these cases, it is important to
re-examine the perceptions of white-collar crime. Fortunately, a few studies have begun to
address this issue.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/1359-0790.htm
Views on
white-collar
crime
309
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.24 No. 2, 2017
pp.309-321
©Emerald Publishing Limited
1359-0790
DOI 10.1108/JFC-05-2016-0040

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