Cloward and Ohlin Concept of ‘Illegitimate Means’

Cloward and Ohlin found some of the theories limited and flawed by examining the influence of social conditions on crime rates in different areas and social groups. Scientists agreed that poverty is a factor that increases the crime rate but also tried to explain why young offenders choose a certain type of crime (Lilly, Cullen, & Ball, 2018). Consequently, Cloward and Ohlin created the concept of “illegitimate means,” which refers to the conditions in which a person lives, and that pushes him or her to certain types of crimes.

The essence of this concept lies in the fact that a person needs certain conditions and means to engage in various types of crime. For example, residents of poor neighborhoods and social groups do not have access to financial data, so they are unlikely to sell inside information or falsify financial documents (Lilly, Cullen, & Ball, 2018). It is more common for residents in poor areas with high crime rates to become robberies, drug dealers, or members of the mafia since they are surrounded by people involved in these criminal areas. The concept of illegitimate means also explains the reasons for the emergence and form of delinquent subcultures in slums. Young people are usually under intense pressure and have significant motivation to break the law to receive rewards, not become victims of crime themselves, or other reasons. In addition, in such areas, young people often have the example of senior friends or mentors who involve them in their crimes or organized groups. At the same time, although the absence of illegitimate means does not guarantee that a person will not become a criminal, it significantly reduces this probability.


Lilly, J.R., Cullen, F.T., & Ball. R. A. (2018). Criminological theory: Context and consequences (7th Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications

"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Order now and Get a Discount!

Place New Order
It's Free, Fast & Safe

"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Order now and Get a Discount!