Getting into street crime: The structure and process of criminal embeddedness

B. Mccarthy, J. Hagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Combining insights from Granovetter′s research on embeddedness, Coleman′s work on social capital and Sutherland′s theory of differential association, we suggest that embeddedness in networks of deviant associations provides access to tutelage relationships that facilitate the acquisition of criminal skills and attitudes, assets that we call “criminal capital.” We test our hypotheses with structural equation models of drug- selling, theft and prostitution among a sample of homeless youth (N = 390). Our results reveal that embeddedness in criminal networks enhances exposure to tutelage relationships and that crime increases with such exposure. These results remain when controls are introduced for home and school experiences, time af risk, situational adversity, and previous criminal experiences. Our analysis raises doubts about assertions that crimes are crudely impulsive acts that require little learning or skill and reflect a general imperviousness to others. Instead, a sensitivity to others, particularly potential tutors, appears to enhance crime by allowing for the acquisition of criminal capital in a tutelage relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-95
Number of pages33
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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