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by Peter Moskos

June 2, 2011

Poverty doesn't equal crime

James Q. Wilson writes some good stuff on crime in the Wall Street Journal. But this worries me:
Culture creates a problem for social scientists like me, however. We do not know how to study it in a way that produces hard numbers and testable theories. Culture is the realm of novelists and biographers, not of data-driven social scientists. But we can take some comfort, perhaps, in reflecting that identifying the likely causes of the crime decline is even more important than precisely measuring it.
Culture doesn't create a problem for social scientists like me. If social scientists can't deal with culture, who can? It's time for sociologists to step up to the plate. And it's time to take qualitative methods more seriously.

1 comment:

Reid Helford said...

With all due respect to Dr. Wilson, culture always seems to end up in the 'residual sum of squares' that such quantitative approaches fail to capture. Of course, you are right, 'culture' cannot be dismissed as too messy or else what good is Sociology? Anthropologists don't have such anxieties, why should we?