Allocation of Time and Hateful Behavior: A Theoretical and Positive Analysis of Hate and Hate Crimes

By Medoff, Marshall H. | The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, October 1999 | Go to article overview

Allocation of Time and Hateful Behavior: A Theoretical and Positive Analysis of Hate and Hate Crimes


Medoff, Marshall H., The American Journal of Economics and Sociology


MARSHALL H. MEDOFF [*]

ABSTRACT. This paper uses the rational-choice economic approach to analyze hateful behavior. The theoretical model predicts that hateful activity decreases with increases in (i) the market wage rate, (ii) the value of time, (iii) age, and (iv) law enforcement activity. The theory is tested on U.S. state hate crime data and the empirical results provide convincing support for the model. Three other factors (urbanization, low occupational status, and downward social mobility) thought to be causes of hateful activity are found not to be statistically significant determinants of hateful activity.

I

Introduction

MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, the twentieth century may be remembered as an era in which the brutality of mankind erupted more expansively than ever before. Hatred reached genocidal proportions in Germany, Turkey, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Burundi, Nigeria, Cambodia, and elsewhere. The last decade of the twentieth century has seen an upsurge in hate. In Bosnia and Kosovo the Serbians have been systematically attempting to eliminate (ethnically cleanse) all traces of other ethnic groups from their territory. In Rwanda the majority Hutu tribe massacred at least 500,000 members of the minority Tutsi tribe. The Muslims in Iraq attempted to exterminate the Kurd tribespeople by using biological and chemical weapons.

The United States during the twentieth century has been relatively immune from the destructive consequences of hate. While a troublesome problem today, however, hateful behavior has the potential to become a major social problem in the twenty-first century. America's future race/ethnic/minority relations will, to some extent, depend upon understanding the forces that transform hate into acts of violence.

A hate crime is defined as a crime directed against members of a particular group simply because of their membership in that group (U.S. Department of Justice, 1990). The basis for an attack may be a victim's race ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. The victim's individual personal characteristics (height, weight, hair color, etc.) are from the perpetrator's point of view irrelevant. All that matters is that the victim is perceived to be a member of the hated group.

Recent research suggests that hate crimes have certain characteristics that distinguish them from other types of violent acts (assaults, robbery, homicide). Hate-motivated assaults tend to be initiated by individuals who are unknown to their victims, whereas most assaults involve people who know each other well--friends, spouses, neighbors (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1985). Another characteristic of hate crimes is they are much more likely than other crimes to entail personal violence and tend to be excessively brutal (Levin and McDevitt, 1993). In most property crimes something of value is taken; in a hate crime something of value is more likely to be damaged or destroyed (Berk, 1990). Most perpetrators of hate crimes, in contrast to other violent offenders, have no prior history of criminal behavior (Harry, 1990). Haters must expend considerably more time and expense than other violent offenders to perpetrate their crime. Haters do not know the victim, live outside the area of the victim, and typically commit the crime near the residence of the victim. Haters must go out of their way to search for the victims in unfamiliar areas (Flannery, 1997).

Various psychological and sociological theories of hatred have been proffered. Allport (1955) notes that hatred is an emotion of extreme dislike or aggressive impulses towards a person or group of persons. By its very nature hatred is extropunitive--the hater is sure the fault lies in the object of his hate. So long as the hater believes this, no guilt is felt. While hate does not necessarily lead to violence, it is part of the social and psychological processes that makes violence an acceptable form of behavior. …

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