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The Dark Side of the American Dream

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Author: 
Jean Marie Brown
December 19, 2013

When crimes or acts of violence involve poor or working-class people, the perpetrators’ economic status is often included as a causal indicator thought somehow to help explain their actions.

The media sometimes portray teen pregnancy and poverty as prerequisites to gang violence, delinquency and teen pregnancy in the next generation. Poverty is factored in when framing behavior of murderer and thieves, as in the gangbanger didn’t know any better because his mother was on welfare and gave birth to him when she was 15.

But class as a contributing factor often isn’t framed when the accused has a privileged or affluent background. Few frames that suggest a dark side to affluence can be considered with the sweeping generalizations that characterize poverty. Instead, criminal behavior among the wealthy, especially children of wealth, is portrayed in reporting and writing as an anomaly, not a harbinger of a larger problem.

Illustration: Roberto Delgado, Photo: Peter Griffin

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