We have been hearing a lot lately about the rising tide of teen violence in America and how a new group of gangsters are roaming the streets. We hear people that advocate the need to prosecute young offenders as adults for their crimes, to lock them up in prison like adults for long terms, and to execute them like adults for capital offensesThe media does much to reinforce this perception by giving major play to any criminal activity by youths. This is perhaps why a 1996 Gallup poll found that average American adult believes that youths commit 43% of all the violent crimes in the U.S., while the true figure is only 13%. Teenagers are not naturally violent. If age alone was an indicator of violent behavior, one would see a similar epidemic of teen violence in other countries around the world; thereÃÂs not. Violence in the media is not the only cause, nor is the drug, nor is gun ownership.
There is one factor that is consistent, and is rarely discussed: poverty.
There is no such thing as youth violence, anymore than there is black violence or Italian violence. The recent rise in violent crime is so clearly founded in social conditions, not age-group demographics.
This leaves the poverty factor. The biggest difference between the U.S. and the rest of the industrialized world is youth poverty and the extreme disparities in the income between rich and poor. According to the 1995 Luxembourg Income Study the U.S. raises there to eight times more children in poverty than other Western nations and has the largest and fastest growing income gap between the richest 5% and the poorest 5%. At the same time, there is no epidemic of kids killing kids. According to the FBIÃÂs 1997 Uniform Crime Reports, of the 1,268...