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Lost Wallet Crime and Deviance Experiment

People are more likely to return a lost wallet if it has cash in it than if its empty

In a recent field experiment researchers posing as members of the public dropped off 17000 lost wallets at reception desks of banks, hotels and museums in cities in 40 countries.

Some wallets contained no money and others £10 cash, and each had a shopping list, a key and business cards with contact details for the owner.

Only 40% of the empty wallets were returned compared to 51% of wallets with £10. The researchers also tried the experiment with £75 in which case the wallet was returned in 72% of cases.

There were significant cross-national variations: In China less than 20% of wallets were returned while in Switzerland the figure was 75%.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is a great example of a field experiment and a cross national study combined, which seems to be designed to test levels honesty in different countries.

It’s mainly relevant to the Crime and Deviance module and seems (at face value) to be supporting evidence for the view that 60% of the reception staff in hotels around the world won’t go out of their way to return a wallet with no money it to its owner – but progressively more of them will if there is more money in the wallet – this seems to be suggesting reasonably high levels of empathy/ honesty – if 75% of people return a wallet with £75 in, that’s higher than I would have expected. (Then again perhaps I’m just dishonest scum?).

Limitations of the experiment

Despite the 40 countries, it’s not very representative of the populations within those countries – basically reception staff in hotels/ banks/ museums – that’s a very thin cross section of the class structure.

The experiment also tells us very little about the reasons why people didn’t return the wallets, and very little about why the return rates varied so widely.

The low return rates in China could be because the Chinese are inherently less honest, and the high return rates in Switzerland might be because the Swiss are inherently more honest.

However, it might just be showing variations in cultural norms and values.

In China, for example, the low return rates may be due to a collectivist culture resulting in everyone thinking a lost wallet is no big deal, as everyone’s going to be OK whatever happens to them, due to a collective safety net.

Also, people may not have bothered to return the wallets because very few people actually use cash in China (at least in the cities) – money transfers are done by phone, and people increasingly use their phones to access their properties. Thus, maybe the low levels of return there are because the wallets were seen as something of a ‘back up’ or an ‘eccentricity’?

In Switzerland on the other hand, maybe the high return rates signify the high levels of individualism?

As with many things sociological/ psychological, more research required to dig deeper!

Sources:

I stumbled upon this in a recent edition of ‘The week’, however there’s also a summary of the experiment here.

 

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Global Justice Now – A Useful Example of an NGO

Global Justice Now is a decentralized democratic global social movement which aims to challenge the powerful and create a more equal and just world.

It’s a great example of a small, politically oriented NGO (Non-governmental organisation) so makes a great study for that part of the Global Development module within A-level sociology.

Some of their current main campaigns include focusing on promoting Fair Trade that works for people and planet and the Freedom of movement for people (pro migration).

They have a strong anti-Corporate and anti-Trump agenda.

They organize several activities every year to highlight global social justice issues, which typically involve small protests and handing petitions to ministers expressing concern about generally neo-liberal policies.

They also produce a magazine full of leftist articles focusing on fair trade and the global south and organize occasional meetings around global social justice issues.

One of things to be critical of is how effective (or ineffective) this organisation is their budget is only £1.5 million a year, which is less than the annual salaries of most of the CEOs of the companies they criticise!

Still, it’s a good NGO case study and useful source of information to keep you up to date with global justice issues.

 

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The Global Drug Survey – a good example of invalid data due to bias?

86% of the global population have used drugs in the last year, and more people have used cannabis than tobacco. Almost 30% of the world’s population have used Cocaine in the last year, at least according to the 2019 Global Drug Survey.

Global Drugs Survey.PNG

This survey asked adults in 36 countries about their use of drugs and alcohol.

According to the same survey, the British get drunk more often than people in any other nation, at least according to a recent

In Britain, people stated they got drunk an average of 51 times last year, with U.S., Canada and Australia not far behind. The average was 33 times.

Where Cocaine use was concerned, 73% of people in England said they had tried it compared to 43% globally.

How valid is this data?

I don’t know about you, but to me these figures seem very high, and I’m left wondering if they aren’t skewed upwards by selective sampling or loose questions.

This report is produced by a private company who sell products related to addiction advice, and I guess their market is national health care services.

Seems to me like it’s in their interests to skew the data upwards to give themselves more of a purpose.

I certainly don’t believe the average person in the UK gets drunk once a week and that almost 3/4s of the population have tried Cocaine.

Sources

The Week 25th May 2019

 

 

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Intersex Policing – the case of Caster Semenya

You’ll probably recognize Caster Semenya the female 400 meter runner with intersex traits who won the 800 meters in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

800 meter gender police.PNG

However she probably won’t be at next year’s in 2020 because the Court of Arbitration for Sport recently judged that female athletes with intersex traits won’t be able to compete in middle distance events (from 400m to 1 mile) unless they take medication to suppress their naturally high levels of testosterone.

On the surface this seems to be creating a ‘level playing field’ for all female athletes, but if we’re going to insist that someone like Semenva takes medication to suppress her unfair natural advantage, surely we should drug all the future Michael Phelps and Usain Bolts of the athletics world too?

Michael Phelps’ 6 ft 7″ arm span and size 13 feet certainly gave him an unfair natural advantage, and Usain Bolt’s supreme body-mechanics contributed to his sprint world records: how many other people have you seen ‘jogging to line’ and winning that often?

So maybe there’s more to the Semenva Case? 

Maybe she (and anyone else whose intersex) is being punished for their ‘gender ambiguity’ rather than this being a just penalty for being physically advantaged.

Then there’s the fact that she (and other intersex females) are easy victims here: they are an extreme minority, and relatively powerless, after all – easy to mete out harsh justice on such individuals and then forget about it in the name of ‘fairness’.

Maybe this is about rendering intersex females invisible – policing our ‘normalised’ sex-boundaries, making sure the rest of us don’t become too uncomfortable about the reality that sex/gender are complex/ fluid….. it CANNOT be about just biological advantage as the cases of Phelps and Bolt demonstrate – we celebrate their ‘good’ freakishness, after all!)

NB – she’s rejected the ruling, it is a violation of her human rights, after all!

Sources

https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/5/3/18526723/caster-semenya-800-gender-race-intersex-athletes

 

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School league tables changing to include exam results of excluded pupils

School league tables are  changing so that they include the exam results of schools’ excluded pupils.

This social policy is designed to discourage schools from excluding potentially low-performing students with the intention of improving their exam results on paper.

Along with data on formally excluded pupils schools will also have to included data on off-rolled pupils, or pupils who have been informally excluded, for example by the school coming to an agreement with the parent that they will voluntarily un-enroll their child rather than their being formally excluded.

This seems to be the government’s response to the fact that school exclusions have rise by 40% in the last three years, after a period of decline….

school exlcusion statistics

At first glance this does seem to be an effective way of dealing with the recently growing problem of off-rolling – where the schools effectively just left it to the parents to re-enroll their child elsewhere, which many of them didn’t (as I’ve written about here). With this policy in place the schools who do this are at least more likely to follow up on what’s happened to their excluded children.

It might also make some schools innovate to deal with their ‘problem children’ more in-house rather than letting someone else deal with the problem.

It’s also an interesting example of a social policy response that recognizes that certain headmasters are prepared to game the system by engaging in underhand tactics to improve their results – this strategy of excluding to improve results (at least this is what appears to be going on) is mainly practiced by academies.

However, maybe it’s just a sticking plaster? Maybe we should be thinking more about why so many kids are being excluded, which means thinking about why they don’t like school, and think about how we can maybe change the system from the ground up?!?

Sources 

The Times 

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The dumping of plastic waste – a green crime?

Only an estimated 9% of the world’s plastic waste is recycled. A further 12% is burnt and the rest, 79% is buried in land fill or just dumped.

China used to be the main dumping ground for the world’s rubbish, but it banned the import of plastic waste in 2017, which then lead to a surge in the amount of used plastic sent to other countries in South East Asia such as Malaysia.

In Malaysia, much of the world’s used plastic is either burnt, releasing toxic chemicals into the air or dumped in rivers, polluting local water supplies and ultimately the oceans.

The BBC recently made a documentary about the harmful effects of the vast plastic-waste mountains in Malaysia, caused by wealthier countries such as the UK not dealing with their plastic waste at home, but rather outsourcing its disposal to a poorer country, because it’s cheaper to do so.

green crime plastic waste
A pile of plastic waste somewhere in Malaysia

From a traditional criminology perspective there is nothing necessarily ‘criminal’ about a company in one country engaging in ‘law evasion’ by exporting plastic waste to a second company in another country with slacker environmental protection laws and then that second company burning or just dumping the waste –   it is up to each individual country to establish its own environmental laws, after all.

However, this case study may well be an example of a ‘green crime‘ from a green-criminological perspective – in the above example company A is knowingly doing something that will result in pollution and thus do environmental harm – even if it is thousands of miles away.

NB Malaysia recently announced that it will no longer accept imports of foreign rubbish, and has threatened to return 3000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste back to the U.K. other countries.

Sources 

The Week, 8 June 2019

 

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Why do some victims not report their crimes?

This topic came up as the 6 mark question in the 2019 AQA A-Level Crime and Deviance Paper.

More precisely the question was ‘outline three reasons why victims may not report crimes’

This strikes me as a very easy question, as all you need to do is identify three reasons and then state why. To my mind, this would have been much better as a 10 marker, in which students have to demonstrate more analytical skills by discussing reasons in much more depth. It would surprise me in fact if this comes up as the 2020 10 mark question!

A few ideas on why some victims do not report crimes to the police.

NB – Written in a verbose exam style – you could get away with writing less and still get max marks on the above question! 

The first reason is that people may not be aware that they have been a victim of a crime – young children may not have the mental capacity to be aware that they are victims of abuse, or they may have been socialised into thinking abuse is normal.

A second reason is that victims may be fearful of the negative physical or emotional consequences for them if they reported the crime. They may be afraid the perpetrator would find out and punish them for dobbing them into the police, or they may not want the sense of shame that comes with admitting to having been a victim, or not want to relive painful memories.

A third reason is that the victim may have been badly treated by the police in the past or perceive the police as the enemy- young black men are more likely to be stopped and searched and thus may have the impression that the police are institutionally racist, and thus think their racism might lead them to not take them seriously if they reported a crime – the victim might think that if they are racist, the they wouldn’t bother trying to track down someone who harmed a black person.

 

 

 

 

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Huge increase in Chinese students studying at UK universities – a funny kind of ‘globalisation’

The U.K. now issues more than 100 000 student visas per year to Chinese students studying at British universities, with the numbers of Chinese students studying in the UK increasing at about 5% a year since at least 2013-14

Chinese students are by far the largest non-European student group living temporarily in the UK for 3 years or so while they pursue their degree courses. The next largest university feeder country outside of Europe is India, but only 20 000 student visas are issued to Indian students per year.

Moreover, if you look at the stats below, taken from the Higher Education Student Statistics Authority (nice ring to it that!) you can see that Chinese students are the only group from outside Europe who are coming into the UK in increasing numbers. Every other country is sending very similar numbers now compared to 2013-14.

Now to my mind this seems to be more a trend towards increasing bilateralism between China and UK universities, and if anything evidence of stagnant or even a decline in the ‘globalisation of British Higher Education’.

Relevance to A-level Sociology 

This is most obviously relevant to the sociology of education module, especially useful as some quite nuanced evidence against the globalisation of education (IF like me you don’t think just two countries enhancing links between them is globalisation)

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Does student debt reduce a person’s income and career prospects in later life?

Tech Billionaire Robert F. Smith recently pledged to pay off the student loans of an entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College in Atlanta.

NB we’re not talking small amounts of money – the cost of this is $40 million and it means wiping off $100K of debt in some cases.

 

According to Democrats leaving college saddled with debt has a negative impact on future careers. It’s not difficult to reason why: if you’ve got a $100K debt, you might end up getting stuck in a dead-end job to service debt payments rather than being able to do a lowly-paid trainee position for a year or more, which might well be required to get your foot on the career ladder.

Or as Elijah Dormeus (author of the tweet above) put it – he was going to carry on working at AT and T to pay off his debt, now he’s free to help his brother through college and set up a community foundation to help other financially challenged people through education.

This ‘natural experiment’ offers education researchers an interesting opportunity to do a comparative study of  the future career choices and prospects of the 2018 and 2020 classes, who will both be suffering debt on graduation, compare to this now debt-free class of 2019.

It seems like a good college to choose for such a ‘natural experiment’ as writing off loans should make a lot of difference given that the student body at Morehouse is all-male (so no gender differences to skew the results), predominately black (so one main ethnic group) and typically from poor backgrounds.

It would have been pointless doing this with a wealthy college where students are less likely to be debt conscious .

It will be interesting to see how this experiment unfolds, and I’ll be sure to keep you all posted!

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The extradition of Julian Assange – is itself as ‘state crime’

The founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange has been in the news recently because the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid just signed an order to extradite him to the United States, where he stands accused of 18 crimes under the Espionage Act.

Assange being assaulted by state criminals

 

The United States claims that WikiLeaks has published State Secrets, secrets that have harmed the United State’s Government to the extent that they’ve compromised National Security.

The problem is that this isn’t really the case – lots of the information published by WikiLeaks has been harmful to the U.S. and many other governments because it reveals the truth about how they operate behind closed doors and the information they cover up to protect themselves.

One such example is the video released via WikiLeaks in 2007 of a US aircrew laughing over the dozen innocent people they’d just slaughtered in Iraq which exposed the US government’s lie that all of these people had been insurgents.

There is also a further problem in that Julian Assange’s Whistle blowing is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

All of this seems to be blatent case of two governments (the US and the UK) collaborating to stifle Freedom of Speech – it is an attempt by them to use blunt force (the threat of imprisonment) to clamp down on any Journalist who dares to expose State lies.

Furthermore, given that Assange hasn’t actually done anything illegal, extraditing him is a state crime on the part of the UK government (false imprisonment – Assange is currently in jail), and the US putting him on trial is also a state crime.

NB if Assange is extradited and found guilty, this could open up the door the the US being able to prosecute any of the newspapers or journalists which published WikiLeaks material.

It’s a worrying time for freedom of speech and just goes to show the power of the state in modern times: even if

Relevance to A-level sociology 

This is most obviously relevant to Crime and Deviance: it’s a great example of how ‘crime’ is socially constructed’ – what Julian Assange did isn’t even a crime (because of the U.S. Constitution) and yet because it harms governments, the US and the UK are ‘making’ it one.

If you compare it to the case of the war criminal Tony Blair who lead us into an illegal war against Iraq by deliberately misleading the House of Commons, he isn’t being extradited and prosecuted.

Together these show how the ‘law’ is manipulate to protect the wealthy.

Sources/ Find out More 

This article by the Real News Network, which features John Pilger, is well worth a read – the article goes into details of how Assange can’t even access the documents he needs to defend himself, in breach of his human rights.