"Crimes of the Middle Classes" by David Weisburd

Crimes of the Middle Classes White-Collar Offenders in the Federal Courts David Weisburd, Stanton Wheeler, Elin Waring, Nancy Bode

Yale Studies on White-Collar Crime Series
Publication date:
23 Feb 1994
Yale University Press
232 pages: 216 x 140mm

White-collar criminals are often assumed to be wealthy and powerful individuals who receive lenient treatment from the courts. This book—a major study of convicted white-collar offenders in America—provides a radically different portrait of these criminals and their punishments. Weisburd, Wheeler, Waring, and bode argue that the majority of white-collar criminals come from the middle classes and that judges often punish wrongdoers of higher status more harshly than less socially privileged criminals.


Drawing from a large research project that had special access to confidential federal pre-sentence investigations, the authors are able to give a particularly rich and detailed view of white-collar crime—from securities fraud and anti-trust violations to embezzlement and tax fraud. Following offenders from their crimes through conviction and sentencing, their book provides a fresh look at a number of questions that have become central research and policy concerns. Fro example, they find that the most important factor that makes it possible to commit costly and damaging white-collar crimes is use of organizational resources. They state that, when sentencing white-collar criminals, judges consider the blameworthiness of defendants and the harm they inflict upon the community.


The authors argue that the vast middle of our increasingly bureaucratic society has both more opportunities for financial wrongdoing and more susceptibility to it. They predict that white-collar crimes committed by these Americans will grow in significance as the nation approaches the twenty-first century.

"A lucid and interesting book that communicates to readers some of the key debates that surround the issues of white-collar crime and its control."?Michael Levi, University of Wales College of Cardiff

"This book provides an instructive look at the world of white collar crime. . . . At the heart of the matter is the discovery that the bulk of white collar crime is not, as we are inclined to believe, committed by the affluent and the influential but by rather `ordinary people.'"?Stuart A. Scheingold, Law and Politics Book Review

"All four volumes of this project [the White Collar Crime series] are essential acquisitions for any library serving a criminology program."?Choice

"Crimes of the Middle Classes: White-Collar Offenders in the Federal Courts represents the final study from the white-collar crime project undertaken at Yale University over the past decade. Taken together with the other three volumes representing the White-Collar Crime Series, Susan Shapiro's Wayward Capitalists, Kenneth Mann's Defending White-Collar Crime, and Stanton Wheeler, Kenneth Mann, and Austin Sarat's Sitting in Judgment, the collection represents, in my mind, the most important contribution to white-collar crime research since Sutherland coined the term in 1939. . . . This contribution is a fine finale. . . . The authors give a provocative account of the movement of white-collar offenders through the legal system, including the impact of sentencing. . . . [and] link their findings to both criminological theory generally and to public policy."?Kip Schlegel, American Journal of Sociology

"[This book] goes beyond what has been theorized and researched and presents significant findings."?Jeffrey A. Mello, Bimonthly Review of Law Books

"[An] excellent book that yields up a host of insights about white-collar offenders in the federal courts."?Malcolm M. Feeley, Contemporary Sociology

"[The authors] successfully expose and reorient much wrongheaded thinking about the 'who' and 'why' of white-collar crime, and so help to construct better answers to questions which have usually elicited only banal responses. . . . [This book] provides rich detail on the nature of offenses, offenders, and modus operandi."?David T. Johnson and Richard A. Leo, Law and Social Inquiry