Gender and Crime
Similarities In Male And Female Offending Rates And Patterns
Both males and females have low rates of arrest for serious crimes like homicide or robbery; and high rates of arrest for petty property crimes like larceny-theft, or public order offenses such as alcohol and drug offenses or disorderly conduct. In general, women tend to have relatively high arrest rates in most of the same crime categories for which men have high arrest rates. For example, rates of homicide are small for both sexes (about 17 offenders for every 100,000 males, about 2 offenders per 100,000 females), as compared to larceny rates, which measure about 800 offenders per 100,000 males and 380 offenders per 100,000 females.
Male and female arrest trends over time or across groups or geographic regions are similar. That is, decades or groups or regions that have high (or low) rates of male crime tend to also have high (or low) rates of female crime. For example, in the second half of the twentieth century, the rates of arrest for larceny-theft increased dramatically for both men and women; and declined even more dramatically for both men and women in the category of public drunkenness. Similarly, states or cities or countries that have higher than average arrest rates for men also have higher arrest rates for women (Steffensmeier, 1993; Steffensmeier, Allan, and Streifel).
Male and female offenders have similar age-crime distributions, although male levels of offending are always higher than female levels at every age and for virtually all offenses. The female-to-male ratio remains fairly constant across the life span (Steffensmeier and Streifel, 1991). The major exception to this age-by-gender pattern is for prostitution, where the age-curve for females displays a much greater concentration of arrests among the young, compared to an older age-curve for males. A variety of factors account for this difference. For example, males arrested under a solicitation of prostitution charge may be men old enough to have acquired the power to be pimps or the money to be customers—men who often put a premium upon obtaining young females. The younger and more peaked female age curve clearly reflects differing opportunity structures for crimes relating to prostitution. Older women become less able to market sexual services, whereas older men can continue to purchase sexual services from young females or from young males. The earlier physical maturity of adolescent females also contributes to their dating and associating with older male delinquent peers.
Female offenders, like male offenders, tend to come from backgrounds marked by poverty, discrimination, poor schooling, and other disadvantages. However, women who commit crime are somewhat more likely than men to have been abused physically, psychologically, or sexually, both in childhood and as adults.
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