Male Criminal Defendants Outnumber Female by More than 3 to 1
According to recent LegalMatch case data from the last 3 months, the vast majority of individuals facing criminal charges are men. They appear to outnumber women by a ratio of 3.3 to 1.
This is a very significant gap. However, study after study has shown that this trend is not a new one. Throughout almost every society with records of such data, and every type of crime, men tend to commit more crime than women. The LegalMatch case data simply bear this out. Furthermore, women account for only 7% of the U.S. prison population, and only 1/4th of all arrests made nationwide.
However, the abstract of the study linked above notes that when the populations of male and female offenders are isolated, and their crimes broken down by type, male and female criminal offenders commit various types of crimes at roughly the same rate. That is to say, severe crimes like murder are extremely rare among both men and women, while minor crimes such as drug possession and petty theft are much more common among both genders.
What does this mean? What causes this disparity? Well, if we knew the answer to this question, social scientists wouldn’t continue to study the issue.
We can, however, infer one thing from this data: when it comes to analyzing the costs and benefits of committing a crime, women who are inclined to commit crimes appear to make roughly the same judgments as men. Murder is relatively uncommon, presumably, because the punishment is so severe: considering the possibility of life in prison, or even execution, it is extremely rare that a sane person will judge it to be in his or her interests to kill someone.
Likewise, crimes such as petty theft are much more common, because the cost/benefit analysis (assuming one doesn’t consider the immorality of theft) far more often weighs in favor of committing a minor crime: the value of the item stolen is far more often seen as being worth the risk of punishment, since the offender is not terribly likely to get caught, and the potential punishment usually amounts to a few months in jail, or a fine.
So, men and women apparently make similar value judgments when deciding to commit a crime. However, what can we make of the much lower overall crime rates among women?
There are a few possible explanations.
Some people simply assume that men are inherently more aggressive than women. I have no idea if this is true, but it makes some intuitive sense – after all, for thousands of years, men were the ones who hunted for food and fought in the wars. Tens of thousands of years ago, men who were more aggressive may have had an evolutionary advantage.
Another theory is that, because, throughout most of human history, women tended to have a more domestic role in society, they simply had fewer opportunities to commit crime. However, women make up more than half of the human population, and are entering the workforce in record numbers. If this were the sole cause, one would expect crime rates among women to have skyrocketed in recent decades, which apparently has not happened.
As somewhat of an inverse of the above theory, it’s also postulated that men, who have traditionally been viewed in western societies as sole breadwinners, face more pressure to commit crime when they cannot support their families through legal means. Once again, not being a social scientist, I can’t comment to the truth of this.
In the end, we may never know exactly why gender is such an important indicator for crime. However, continued effort should be made to study this phenomenon, so more effective intervention can be available to prevent crimes committed by members of either sex.