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Consequences of White-collar Crime (From White-Collar Crime - An Agenda for Research, P 23-49, 1982, Herbert Edelhertz and Thomas D. Overcast, ed. - See NCJ-77820)

NCJ Number
R F Meier; J F Short
Date Published
27 pages
This paper discusses the financial, physical, and moral effects of white-collar crime and concludes that its impact on the community's social fabric is more important than dollar losses.
White-collar crime has been defined recently as the use of a significant position of power for illegal gain that results in damage or harm to victims as measured by financial loss, physical harm, and damage to the community's moral climate. Most experts agree that the economic impact of white-collar crime is far more costly than ordinary crime. White-collar crime can endanger employees through unsafe working conditions, injure consumers because of dangerous products, and cause pollution problems for a community. Sociologists have emphasized that white-collar crimes are particularly harmful to society because they are committed by persons in power who are expected to set a moral example and behave responsibly. A conventional viewpoint expressed in Government reports and professional articles has maintained that the public does not view white-collar crime as serious, but few empirical studies have actually supported this opinion. In contrast, most research on perceived crime seriousness suggests that the public generally ranks white-collar violations as serious, especially embezzlement and activities which result in death or injury to individuals. In addition, researchers have left virtually unexamined the damage to social morals and structures caused by white-collar crimes. Areas which warrant investigation include alienation from society, with consequent feelings of normlessness and powerlessness, and public confidence in major institutions. The concluding discussion of problems associated with measuring each type of impact covers data sources on white-collar law breaking, public perceptions of white-collar crime, efforts of corporations to oppose Government regulation of their activities, and identification of victim groups. Over 50 references are provided.


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