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The USA and Canada are currently grappling with the problems of high incarceration rates, and surprisingly, a larger percentage of the individuals are the high school dropouts. Despite education policy not playing a role in the high dropout rates, equal of body research confirms that in spite the stable school completion rates, it remains intriguing as to the reason as to why education policy is necessary for stopping crime (Welsh et al., 2015). For instance, a major question is where the marginal dollar should be spent, either in prisons, police or schools. The three elements are equally effective in crime reduction, but to a greater extent, education and training provide benefits and incentives that cannot be realised when using the prisons and police policies. For instance, Lochner (2011) argues that the best that a government can do is having properly and well-targeted early intervention programs since they are cost-effective in deterring crime in comparison to alternatives like raising the rates of imprisonment.
Particular, the Television series, Wire, exposed the ills and drawbacks in the American educational system, partly the problem of the education policy caused by limited government’s attention. The film shows how abject poverty leads young boys into criminal activities and selling drugs, with the character, Duquan Dukie Weems used as a portray of a deeply-rooted problem that bars children from low-income communities from prospering in education and ending up on the streets doing drugs and engaging in group crime. Therefore, to help children like Duquan Dukie Weems, the government should increase its subsidy to the education sector to provide the necessary resources concerning learning materials, the welfare of the child and with part of the funding allocating towards providing education and awareness against drug abuse and crime.
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Key Problem of the Character: Dukie
In the television series, Wire, the social challenges (crime, drugs and violence) brought about with the problems and gaps in the education system are outlined. Specifically, the four boys engaged in drugs selling around the streets confirms the problem with an education system that has failed to notify the teenagers about the dangers of drugs and crime as well as the high school drop out rates. Duquan “Dukie” Weems is the central character who portrays how the social and economic background is a risk factor for children engaging in drugs. The boy hails from a poor background, living in abject poverty and worse of all has alcoholic and drug addict parents who are not in the capacity to take care of him. Poverty is clearly stated in his case, as he lacks basic needs like proper clothing and with no running water at home, barely washes his clothes and bathe; this leads to the ridicule at school further putting Dukie into problems like bullying and name calling. However, Perez has a concern for the boy and goes an extra mile of getting Dukie to concentrate in his studies. As Dukie’s teacher, he tries to provide Dukie with extra resources for studying(books) and even goes further to provide him with his second-hand clothing. To worsen the situation, Dukie’s parents sell the given clothes in exchange for alcohol. In his case, the boy is plunged into a serious socio-economic challenge or background that denies and deters him from concentrating. However, Perez tries all he can to show that Dukie is improving in his studies and finally gets to promote him into 9th grade. To the surprise of many viewers, Perez later learns that Dukie has gotten back and joined his friends in the streets in selling drugs.
The Proposed Policy Intervention
The Economics of Education and Crime
For this specific policy recommendation, a policy is being proposed on increasing funding or government subsidy to provide more learning resources for students from low-income backgrounds as well as channelling part of the funding for education and awareness about drugs and crime to the teenagers. Notably, the essence and effects of education on crime reduction can be argued from an economic perspective, and as such, economic models can be useful in explaining the link between education and reduced levels of crime in the society.
One of the models that show the connection between the proposed educational policy and crime reduction is the relationship that school has with work and crime, a human capital investment model (Becker, 1993). In this sense, the investment in human capital is regarded as a moderating factor in crime while on the other hand, increasing life opportunities for the individuals. Mainly, the relationship between work and crime stems from the fact that with the investment in education, the government also does invest in human capital and this has or presents the prospects for increasing the future work opportunities thereby, discouraging the individuals from participating in a crime. On the other hand, investment in education, from an economic perspective, has prospects for increasing the wage rates and as such, the higher motivation that drives individuals away from crime (Welsh, B.C., Farrington, 2015). For Dukie, this policy presents prospects for improving his life and helping overcome the temptation of engaging in selling drugs and group crime with his friends. Through such a policy, a practical solution shall have been presented to Dukie, whereby proper investment in education would increase future life chances and opportunities of getting good and excellent paying job and becoming a person of significant in the society by avoiding crime and violence in the adult stage.
Nonetheless, investing in educating teenagers, especially for Dukie has greater incentives for reducing crime because it is a human capital-based model based on two assumptions namely individual rationality and the time required to engage in crime (Lochner, 2011). From the individual rationality approach, the policy depends on reducing crime by reducing the time that a teenager would spend planning or be hanging around with the friends, carrying out the activities or incarceration. Regarding, the time spent, investing in education reduces the prospects for engaging in criminal activities because of the perceived wage rates of engaging in crime (Becker, 1968). For Dukie for instance, the time he spends and the wages gotten from selling drugs in the streets corner when compared with the future professional employment and earning overrides the risk for engaging in crime and selling drugs.
Nevertheless, the need and essence of a policy increasing the subsidy and funding to the schools can also be argued from the economic perspective of how educational attainment as well as school quality or choice as a direct impact on the possibility of committing a crime in adult life. Accordingly, studies on school attainment and effect on crime align with the recommendation from the human-capital approach in crime by confirming the direct impact or the reduction effect that school has on adult crime (Lochner, 2011). More so, the particular policy recommends an increment in government spending as concerning improving the learning environment and providing more resources for education. In this sense, the recommended policy tends to lean towards having an improvement in the quality of school that Dukie is attending. Therefore, if the quality of learning is improved, then Dukie will have a chance to learn and stay out of the streets selling drugs with his friends. Besides, studies on school choice and quality show that any improvement in the school quality has a direct impact on the educational attainment and learning achievement of the student and learners show higher affinity to reducing crime in their later adult years or life (Hanushek, 2011). In this respect, better quality of the school can be argued to have a direct impact on the social development of the students and as such, improving the social networks more so for the disadvantaged youths.
For this particular policy recommendation, there is the suggestion that having early intervention programs like education and training(awareness on implications of drugs) has a direct impact on reducing crime and the possibility of students engaging in crime. Accordingly, Lochner (2011) agrees that the school-based interventions are economically viable since they improve social development of the at-risk students and as such, effective in reducing the chances and possibilities of engaging in crime.
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From an economic viewpoint, the investment in education as a policy recommending increased subsidy by the government towards educating and increasing school enrollments, the decision to engage in crime can be evaluated by framing it as an income maximization construct. In this sense, crime is studied from the viewpoint of the financial motive. The violent crime is a function of the monetary equivalent of the psychic or the non-pecuniary benefit from engaging in the particular crime (Lochner, 2011). When engaging in crime, the investment subsidies are not large enough to draw more attention or the urge in making it lucrative in comparison to work unless some future returns on investment are plausible (Becker, 1968). To determine how this policy will influence the individual decision by Dukie to engage in crime and selling drugs on the street corner instead of going to school, the marginal returns on investment in crime is compared to the legitimate wage rate that they would get when they are educated. The pay rate for the crime and legitimate employment is perceived as a constant at any given point in an individual’s life (Lochner, 2011).
Therefore, when weighing the opportunity cost of spending time in improving schools against crime, the former (training and development through education) is plausible thereby implying that policy for subsidizing more funds into the educational system, especially for the low-income communities is economically viable. Accordingly, among the adolescents who will be spending their time in learning and sharpening their skills, the small scale increase in the time investment in improving their skills is poised to come at the expense of the juvenile crime, whereby juvenile crime trades off with crime and the youths will more likely to choose school over crime (Lochner, 2011).
The limitations and Those hurt by the policy
Despite a proposal to have a practical solution to solving the inherent issues of crime and violence in the society, social and political forces have been major impediments towards the implementation of such policies. For instance, race and inequality in the distribution of resources as concerning the essential services like the education sector has been widespread (Monge-Naranjo and Lochner, 2012). For Dukie, he hails from the African American communities that have been worse hit by the silence by the government in allocating resources. In this sense, even if the government subsidy was to be increased to improve the quality of the schools or learning, such will still be subject to the social challenges as concerning how the resources are distributed for these discourses. Nonetheless, Darity Jr. and Mason (1998) concur that the educational policy within the federal government system has been pushing most of the kids into the criminal and juvenile justice system. In this sense, the trend shows that the government always prioritize imprisonment over education or interventions through learning. Besides, most schools have school-based police officers that focus on implementing the harsh zero tolerance policies (Welsh et al., 2015). In return, many of the students, especially those from the minority races like Dukie have to deal and face the harsh consequences.
Despite the necessity to improve the quality of learning and the educational outcome for the minorities like Dukie, this policy will again face the change of poor educational outcome for the minority races due to the unequal accessibility to vital educational resources like skilled teachers and appropriate curriculum (Hanushek, 2011). Besides, the inherent attitudes in these schools can impede the implementation of the policy. In Dukie’s case, for instance, only Perez is concerned about eh student’s performance. However, the promotion that he gives to Dukie to advance into the 9th grade also shows the less concern on the quality of education. In retrospect, Dukie has been falsely given a promotion just to demonstrate that the school is performing and improving the skills of the students. Therefore, with this type of inequality caused by the political forces sidelining the minority groups from achieving quality education, implementing the policy will be a challenge. As such, quality of education has been identified as an economical viability in education policy for reducing crime because it denotes improved skills, a better social development that foregoes the opportunity cost of engaging in crime by making future wage (from employment) more attractive to the students (Welsh et al., 2015).
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Another major impediment is the labour discrimination because, despite the minorities receiving proper education, they are still faced with the challenge of racial discrimination in the labor market. In this sense, if education and training were to improved for Dukie, he will still face the problem of having to deal with the race discrimination, especially as concerning wages paid to the employees or professionals of his colour. The discrimination in the labor market implies that the investment in education may not be economically viable if Dukie still has to deal with unemployment after graduating or poor wages and as such, may lead to weighing the wage returns of engaging in crime (Western, 2002).
The decision to increase government spendign will hurt the education system, more so the budgetary constraints on the systemt to sustain the investent in improving quality of education as well as keeping the enrollment rates high (Monge-Naranjo and Lochner, 2012. Eventually, the taxpayers will feel the pinch owing to the extra tax levies to fund and sustain the policy to ensure long-term solution to keeping more teenagers like Dukie in the education system and preventing future crime.
An alternative to reducing and preventing crime in the society is through incarceration of the teenagers. However, from an economic perspective, this option does not seem viable in comparison to education policy. For one, incarceration does not reduce recidivism but instead would mean that the community will have to deal with issues like criminal profiling and as such, putting more pressure on the teenagers (Becker, 1968). On the other hand, incarceration, when viewed from an economic perspective, does not reduce crime rates because as the youths get out of their jail terms, they consider their usual and initial ways of drug dealings. In comparison, education policy is evaluated from the wages and the return on investment which is time (Lochner, 2011). Through improved quality in education and appropriate resources, Dukie will spend a lot of time studying and doing school work which eventually pays off when the wage returns of employment are calculated against the wage returns of engaging in crime.
A practical solution that can help yougths like Dukie in Wire is having a policy for increasing investment in the education system through increased government subsidies. The policy is reasobale because when weighed at individual level, investment in crime is less economical than the wage rate from employment. On the other hand, improved quality in learning increases chances and skills development and brings economic return. Conversely, alternatives like incarceration can be possible but this will mean just keeping more youths in the prisons but not a sustainable and economically viable solution for better wage returns in future. However, social and political issues like race and discrimination, in allocation educational resources as well as sidelining in the labor market can be a limitation to implementign the policy. Besides, the policy can be a constraint to the education system. If properly implemented, more funding and investment in education can help Dukie overcome his problem by keeping him busy, no time for selling drugs in the streets and more opportunities for descent wage rates in future.
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- Becker, G 1993. Investment in Human Capital: Effects on Earnings Chapter 3. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1993.
- Becker, G. 1968. Crime and Punishment: an economic approach. Journal of Political Economy, 76(2), pp. 169-217.
- Darity Jr., W. and Mason, P. 1998. Evidence on Discrimination in Employment: Codes of Color, Codes of Gender. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 12(2), pp. 63-90.
- Hanushek, E. 2011. The economic value of higher teacher quality. Economics of Education Review, 30(3), pp. 466-79.
- Lochner, L. 2011. Education policy and Crime in P. Cook, J. Ludwig, and J. McCrary (eds.), Controlling Crime: Strategies and Tradeoffs, Chapter 11, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.
- Monge-Naranjo A. and L. Lochner, L. 2012. Credit constraints in education: Theory and evidence. Annual Review of Economics, 4, pp. 225-256.
- Welsh, B.C., Farrington, D.P. and Gowar, B.R., 2015. Benefit-cost analysis of crime prevention programs. Crime and justice, 44(1), pp.447-516.
- Western, B. 2002. The impact of incarceration on wage mobility and inequality. American Sociological Review, 67(4), pp. 526-547.