Research Paper on White-Collar Crime

Published: 2023-10-31
Research Paper on White-Collar Crime
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Criminal justice Social issue
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1762 words
15 min read


The term “White-Collar Crime” (WCC) was introduced by an American sociologist Sutherland Edwin in 1939 (Price & Norris, 2009). WCC refers to crimes perpetrated by government and business professionals in the course of their everyday activities. In this regard, examples of these offenses are forgery, cybercrime, embezzlement, money laundering, and mortgage fraud. Typically, these crimes are nonviolent and are characterized by concealment and deceit. In the United States, victims of offenses that fall under the category of WCC lose more than $250 billion per year (Holtfreter et al., 2008). This aspect implies that WCC has significant socio-economic effects on the country. I opted to examine this topic because the existing studies have shown that it is an under-researched area in entrepreneurship and criminological literature (Gottschalka & Smith, 2013; Holtfreter et al., 2008). I am also interested in understanding public perceptions of this type of crime and its punishment. The United States should introduce more punitive measures to address white-collar crime because its economic effects are costly.

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Common Sense Understanding of the Crime

American society has various shared beliefs concerning this social problem. The common sense understanding of WCC is that it makes the working environment unsafe for the public. People believe that this crime's proliferation affects everyone in society as it hinders service delivery in the private and public sectors. Based on my observation, a vast majority of Americans think that corporate fraud is the most severe offense of all crimes that are categorized as WCC. Besides shared beliefs and common sense understanding of the problem, there are several stereotypes and biases associated with it. In modern society, many people stereotype accountants, corporate managers, and professionals in the area of finance as WCC perpetrators. However, I think it is wrong for such people to judge others based on their profession. The reality is that white-collar crime can be committed in any industry and any department of an organization; thus, it is not associated with certain professionals.

Literature Review

Several studies in the English literature have examined the relationship between gender and WCC. Gottschalka and Smith (2013) studied high profile WCC cases to determine if gender influence conviction. The authors reviewed cases of WCC reported in the media, and those presented to the court to discover this phenomenon. The sample consisted of 179 individuals accused of committing various white-collar crimes (Gottschalka & Smith, 2013).

The findings showed that the number of male white-collar criminals is significantly higher than that of women (Gottschalka & Smith, 2013). There were 171 male WCC criminals in a sample of 179 cases (Gottschalka & Smith, 2013). At the same time, only eight individuals in a sample were female offenders. The average age of WCC criminals convicted in court was 49. Moreover, this research showed that men in fifties or older are the major perpetrators of the most high profile white-collar crimes (Gottschalka & Smith, 2013). In this sample, the most aged WCC offender had 72 years, while the youngest was 21 (Gottschalka & Smith, 2013).

After analyzing the sample and case outcomes, researchers noted that female white-collar criminals are less likely to be charged than their male counterparts Gottschalka & Smith, 2013). The authors offered several arguments for a small number of WCC reported among women in the official and media statistics. First, organizational power structures favor men, and accordingly, limits women's opportunities. Secondly, women are likely to be perceived as victims of WCC and other offenses. The reason is that female employees appear not to display their willingness to take risks. Also, they are likely to show a greater sense of risk aversion than men would do. Based on these claims, the authors argued that the official WCC data for women and its representation in the media is inaccurate (Gottschalka & Smith, 2013).

There is a significant change in the reaction to WCC in the US. According to Dhami (2007), the literature is in consensus that the change is at a societal-level because it is evident among various social groups. The author studied how WCC prisoners in the United States perceive the reactions of inmates, prison staff, media, and judiciary towards them. Dhami (2007) also investigated how WCC offenders perceived their criminal behavior. In this regard, the researcher interviewed 14 prisoners convicted of white-collar crime (Dhami, 2007).

The findings indicated that the prisoners perceived media and the judiciary's reaction as negative (Dhami, 2007). The two groups also believed that WCC offenders deserve more punitive measures than street criminals. However, prison staff, inmates, and significant others had a positive reaction. Precisely, they were supportive of WCC prisoners. The findings further showed that WCC perpetrators neutralized their criminal behavior (Dhami, 2007). The study concluded that offenders' conceptions of WCC and expectations of other people's reactions are the major aspects that influenced perceptions of audience reaction.

Dhami (2007) argued that society does not view WCC offenses as a form of a crime. Societal reaction to WCC is different from that of conventional offenses because many people do not consider it a “real” crime. One of the reasons is that WCC, such as embezzlement and tax evasion, is explained in a way that is not compatible with the definition of conventional crimes (Dhami, 2007). In recent years, the social reaction to WCC was characterized by support and acceptance among different social groups (Dhami, 2007). This situation implies that white-collar offenders could easily escape stigmatization. Besides, this societal perception of white-collar crime made the perpetrators have a non-criminal self-concept (Dhami, 2007).

Nonetheless, this societal view has changed dramatically because WCC now falls under the jurisdiction of regulatory law, civil law, and even private law (Dhami, 2007). This situation means white-collar crimes are now self-regulated. More importantly, the classification of this offense into various jurisdictions of law suggests that special regulatory agencies can address it whenever a member of a public raises a complaint. Dhami (2007) noted that the regulation of WCC in the US has primarily been through administrative means.

A review of how courts addressed white-collar crimes in the early 2000s suggests that judges responded to the perpetrators with leniency (Dhami, 2007). There is also evidence that law enforcement officers and police units may be reluctant to pursue WCC offenders (Dhami, 2007). A few years ago, criminals that fall in this category were rarely imprisoned and could be incarcerated for a short term in rare instances where judges convict them. Dhami (2007) compared the trial of WCC and well-known cases and noted that the former is characteristically complex, long, and expensive. Moreover, the prosecution of WCC has been infrequent.

The literature has also examined the personality characteristics of predisposing to WCC. Comprehensive interviews with famous experts in the area of WCC identified key features underlying white-collar crime (Price & Norris, 2009). In this study, the interview involved 45 nationally known professionals, including prosecutors and defense counsels (Price & Norris, 2009). White-collar offenders were categorized as followers and leaders to capture accurate personality characteristics. The latter group was described as engaging in rationalization, arrogance, and feeling entitled (Price & Norris, 2009). The primary motivation for these white-collar offenders (leaders) was greed. Other motivations to commit WCC are competitiveness and opportunity. While there was no agreement on the description of followers, they were painted as non-aggressive, passive, less confident, and naïve. (Price & Norris, 2009). The authors argued that staff could be deterred from engaging in this criminal behavior by strengthening corporate culture. Briefly, leaders should create a working environment that emphasizes education and ethical conduct besides monitoring employees through oversight (Price & Norris, 2009).

Additionally, the study examined the typical and distinguishing features of white-collar offenders. The authors noted that these individuals are likely to have attained higher education and have been employed for many years (Price & Norris, 2009). Also, they tend to be older, male, and white. Besides, these people are likely not to have prior convictions and are more financially secure than the general public (Price & Norris, 2009).

Interview and Reflection on the Topic

Four people of different demographic profiles were interviewed to know their perspectives and understanding of WCC. Five questions were used to gauge their knowledge of the topic and the responses related to the research findings from the literature.

Summary of the Findings

All four interviewees had an accurate idea of white-collar crime. However, the fourth one had a narrow understanding of the scope of the crime as he only described it as "corporate fraud." Answers to the second interview question were consistent with the key ideas of the victimization theory. Here, the four interviewees said that people with little know-how are often the major victims of WCC. The first and fourth responded added that mentally disabled and older adults fall into this crime easily. This phenomenon reflects the theoretical foundations of victim precipitation theory and victimization theory learned in class. It states that the characteristics of the victims, ranging from age to sexual orientation and lifestyle, precipitate a crime.

Responses to the third and fourth questions reflect this paper's research findings. The four interviewees agreed that WCC is a significant problem as it not only affects the victim directly but also everyone in the society. In other words, they had a negative perception of WCC and offenders. This aspect is similar to a research finding that there is a societal-level change, and many people now consider WCC as a real crime. In the last interview question, three out of four interviewees agreed that white-collar crime has a low rate of conviction than conventional ones. This idea reflects research finding that WCC involves lengthy, expensive, and complex processes, which, in turn, contributes to the low imprisonment of the defenders.


White-collar crime is a critical problem that affects many people in the United States. Research on this subject says that the number of female WCC offenders is far less than that of men. This situation exists because women tend to be risk-averse. In this note, published studies say that there is an underrepresentation of female WCC in the media and even in government statistics. Evidence that the offenders are likely to be well-educated individuals with stable income has affected my understanding of the problem. I now believe that stringent laws and more punitive measures are needed to prevent the issue. I have learned that the trial of these suspects is costly, time-consuming, and complicated, meaning many offenders are not imprisoned. These research findings are in line with interviewees' responses that white-collar crime has a low imprisonment rate. Their perception that one’s characteristics, like the level of education precipitate white-collar crime, supports the victimization theory.

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