Difference between White-Collar Crime and Blue-Collar Crime

When a banker is jailed for a crime such as fraud, we may hear that he or she was jailed for a white-collar crime. What exactly is a white-collar crime, and how does it relate to its counterpart, blue-collar crime? This article will help explain.


white-collar crime
Conrad Black

A white-collar crime is a crime that is committed by someone of high socioeconomic status. The term white-collar crime derives from the phrase “white-collar worker.” A white-collar worker is a worker that does professional, clerical, or administrative work. Most “office jobs”, in the general usage of the term, are white-collar jobs. Acts of white-collar crime include fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, and income tax evasion, among others. White-collar crime is called white-collar crime because the assets and resources that are involved in committing the crime, such as finances, clients, and sensitive information, are more readily accessible by white-collar workers, like lawyers, bankers, and politicians. The photo above shows Conrad Black, a newspaper publisher who was convicted for fraud in 2007.

blue-collar crime

A blue-collar crime is a crime that is committed by someone who is part of the lower class or working class. It may also be used to refer to crime that does not involve a criminal in a position of power, or a criminal able to access upper-class resources. In a similar fashion to the phrase white-collar crime, blue-collar crime derives from the term blue-collar worker, which traditionally refers to people employed in the field of manual labor, but may generally refer to anyone employed in work paying low wages or requiring lower skill levels. The phrase blue-collar crime is not as widely used as white-collar crime. Acts of blue-collar crime include armed robbery, rape, murder, assault, and theft.

Comparison chart

White-Collar Crime Blue-Collar Crime
Higher socioeconomic class Lower socioeconomic class
Requires resources and powers to that are only available to white-collar workers Does not require any special access or resources
Damage is typically to victim’s resources/money and not physical Damage is typically physical, and to a victim’s person
White-collar crime does not directly harm the victim and does not require the criminal to be there at the “scene of the crime.” Blue-collar crime directly harms the victim and often requires the criminal to be present at the “scene of the crime.”

White-Collar Crime vs Blue-Collar Crime

What are the differences between white-collar crime and blue-collar crime? The main differences are:

  • Socioeconomic status of criminal
  • Resources and power required to commit the crime
  • Type of damage that is done
  • Whether or not the criminal is actively present during the crime

A white-collar criminal, referring to a criminal who is a white-collar worker, is generally in a higher strata of society. They are in what may be called the middle class or upper-middle class. White-collar workers are workers employed in clerical, professional, or administrative fields, such as law, politics, or finance. A white-collar criminal, then, is a criminal who is employed in this field and commits a crime related to that field. A blue-collar criminal, on the other hand, is in a lower strata of society, typically the working class. The crimes committed by a blue-collar criminal are not related to white-collar fields, and include crimes like murder and armed robbery. The phrase “blue-collar criminal” is not used as often as “white-collar criminal”. White-collar criminals can commit blue-collar crime, such as armed robbery or murder, but do not often do so, or are not referred to as blue-collar criminals or white-collar criminals specifically for their crime.

A white-collar crime, such as fraud, requires access to resources like finance and power structures, which blue-collar criminals do not have access to. For example, a typical carpenter could not readily commit tax fraud, because he does not ordinarily have access to the financial resources that a banker may have.

White-collar crime in itself does not usually cause bodily harm. It generally involves the transference of resources, in most cases money, or intellectual property, but does not directly cause bodily harm to the victim of the crime. Income tax evasion, for example, will ensure the white-collar criminal has more money at the cost of governments not properly receiving their taxes, but will not cause direct harm to anyone. However, a loss of resources may impact negatively on the victim’s life circumstances. In addition, white-collar crime is not done in an up-close and personal manner. White-collar criminals will conduct their affairs from behind their resources and companies. Blue-collar crime, on the other hand, usually causes bodily harm or direct damage, and is done directly to the victim. A crime such as physical assault will involve direct bodily harm to the victim of the crime in addition to requiring the criminal to be actively present during the crime.


Below is the video, which explains white-collar crime in more details.