The relationship between social class, or socioeconomic status, and criminal behavior has been a central focus of criminology since its inception. Of course SES does not directly cause crime and delinquency, or anything else for that matter. SES is only a convenient label conceptualized and measured in different ways to categorize people so they can be compared across various domains of interest. It is shorthand for a composite of variables used to place individuals, families, and neighborhoods into categories according to their current ability to legitimately gain access to valued resources. The variables used to defi ne SES are themselves the result of complex interactions of many factors that we will examine in future chapters. The issue here is whether or not SES is related to crime and delinquency, not why it is or is not.