Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

Gangs / by Richard Swift


Title: Gangs 
Author:  Richard Swift
Publisher:  Groundwood Books
ISBN:  978-0-88899-979-5
Year:  2011

Concepts: poverty, incentives, jobs, underground economy, immigration, discrimination

Review:  Gang membership has risen sharply in recent years across cities in industrialized countries and developing regions. A combination of various push and pull factors have led young people, especially boys and young men, to increasingly turn toward gang life as a source of social support, identity, and income.  Among the push factors, poverty and the lack of economic opportunities serve as strong determinants of the decision to join a gang, as do problems associated with racism, a dysfunctional and violent family life, alienation from schools, and gaps in the social safety net. Among the pull factors, protection from street violence is often the main attraction of joining a gang, as is the chance to earn money (often through the sale of drugs), bond with other gang members, and use the band’s reputation to establish identity.

This informative and fast-paced book shines the spotlight on the growth of gangs globally in recent years and provides more details on the reasons for this growth, links with the shadow economy (both legal and illegal), and problems with zero-tolerance immigration and drug offense policies.  Carefully researched and clearly written, the book should appeal to young adult readers seeking an objective and readable overview of the myriad of issues associated with gang membership and street violence.

Review by:  Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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