White-collar crime is just one type of crime. Crime, or the violation of a written law, is a specific kind of deviance. What constitutes a crime varies from society to society.

In our society, sociologists have identified three general categories of crime:

  1. Crimes against the person: These are crimes in which an act of violence is either threatened or perpetrated against a person. A mugging is an example of a crime against the person.
  2. Crimes against property: These are crimes that involve the theft of property or certain forms of damage against the property of another. Arson is an example of a property crime.
  3. Victimless crimes: These are crimes in which laws are violated, but there is no identifiable victim. Prostitution is often classified as a victimless crime.

Profile of a Criminal

Sociologists studying crime and deviance study statistics on who commits crime. Identifying a criminal profile can help sociologists understand the causes of crime and other deviance. Sociologists use the categories of age, gender, social class, and race and ethnicity to create this profile.


Young people, roughly between the mid-teens and early twenties, commit almost 40 percent of all crimes. The likeliness to commit crime, particularly violent crime, decreases as one ages.


Men are arrested for crimes far more often than women. Men are arrested for approximately 70 percent of all property crimes and 80 percent of all violent crimes. Several theories, including the following, attempt to explain this situation:

  • In all known societies, men are allowed more behavioral freedom than women are. More freedom means more opportunity to engage in deviant acts.
  • Traditionally, police have been less willing to define a woman as a criminal, and the court system has been less likely to convict a woman and sentence her to jail or prison.

The gap between the number of arrests for men and the number of arrests for women is narrowing, however. This could be due to greater gender equality or, as some believe, to the rising number of women who commit crimes.

Social Class

Street crime, particularly violent crime, is more prevalent in poor, inner-city neighborhoods than in affluent communities. Violent crime in inner-city neighborhoods tends to be committed by the same group of seasoned criminals. Their victims are most often the law-abiding inhabitants of those neighborhoods. White-collar crime tends to occur in more affluent communities.

Race and Ethnicity

African Americans represent approximately 12 percent of the population in the United States and comprise 30 percent of property-crime arrests and 38 percent of violent-crime arrests. White people represent 66 percent of the arrests for property crimes and 60 percent of the arrests for violent crimes.

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