US Penitentiary sign

These are the crimes which each gender is most likely to commit

The United States is a country that's known by many titles - The Land of Hope and Glory, the leader of the free world, the Land of the Free. However, in one respect, the United States is anything but free. It has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Of those behind bars, the overwhelming majority are men. In 2010, for every 100,000 males in the US, there were 1352 male prisoners; for every 100,000 females, there were 129 in prison.

But it's not only in prison that there's a gender bias. Men are also considerably more likely to be arrested than women and while the most recent FBI statistics for "persons arrested" didn't give a breakdown by gender, the 2014 figures show that of everyone taken into custody that year, 73 per cent were male. The Brennan Center for Justice estimating that almost one third of the adult working-age population hold some form of criminal record. 

But times are a-changing, and since 1980 the number of women in US prisons has increased by a staggering 700 per cent, according to the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women. In the UK the female prison population more than doubled between 1995 and 2010. So is there any difference in the types of crime that different genders commit and why they commit them? It certainly seems so. 


Men: Murder

It has long been theoriesed that murder is predominantly a male crime, but this was more recently supported by researchers in Sweden who studied all cases of violence that resulted in death over a period of 20 years from 1990 to 2010. They found that for every 10 murders committed, nine will have been carried out by men and only one by a woman. Only approximately 15 per cent of serial killers are female and so those that are, such as Aileen Wurnos who murdered 7 men in Florida, tend to attract big media attention.

Although the reason men are more likely to commit violent crime are still debated, with some arguing that physiological factors influence such as hormones are to blame and others arguing that it is more to do with the differing social conditioning of men and women, the motivations for killing between the sexes are more clear. Men, researchers say, are more likely to kill on impulse or for sexually motivated purposes; women on the contrary are more "practical", killing to solve-problems or gain profit.

A gun and bullets Credit: Getty/ stevepb


Women: Property crime

Just as women are more likely kill for profit, but it seems they’re also more likely to scheme people out of money or goods than men - according to the National Resource Center on Justice Involved Women, almost one third of women in US jails are there as a result of property crime. Described by the FBI as offences motivated by “taking of money or property” with the caveat that “there is no force or threat of force against the victims,” these include fraud or larceny-theft. 

And it's fair to say that in the last few years women have come up with a few more, errrrr, creative ways to con others out of money, including buying used pregnancy tests to trick their partners into "funding abortions". On the flip side, research has shown that women are considerably less likely to commit corporate fraud than men. 

Money Credit: Pixabay/ moerschy


Women: Drug offences

Next up on the list of crimes women are most likely to find themselves incarcerated for is drug offences. Over the past few years, various administrations have pursued a War on Drugs by introducing stiffer sentences for those convicted on such charges; according to The Sentencing Project, an advocacy group seeking to reduce the use of custodial sentencing in the US, 24 per cent of women in state prisons are now there for such offences that relate to drugs. 

But it’s not just low-level offences that women partake in - more than half of female federal prisoners are serving sentences for drug offences, with the Bureau of Justice Statistics specifying that 99 per cent of individuals imprisoned in federal jails in America are serving sentences for drug trafficking. In Latin America prisons, the disparity is even higher, with drug charges accounting for 77 per cent of women in prison in Ecuador, and 70 percent in Costa Rica.

Inside of a prison Credit: Pixabay/ MarcelloRabozzi

Men: Rape and sexual assault

In keeping with the disparity in who commits violent crimes, there is one crime that is almost exclusively committed by males, that of forcible rape. In fact, records from the FBI show that over 98 per cent of those arrested for this particular offense, and 93 per cent of those arrested for any other sexual offence, are male.

But while these stats might seem to support the commonly held perception that sex-offenders are male, these figures don't necessarily reflect the true nature of each gender's crime habits. That's because sexual offences remain some of the most under-reported crimes, with the under-reporting of the sexual assault of male and LGBT females having been noted as an area of particular concern. When it comes to women behind bars, female victims are more than three times as likely to experience sexual abuse by other women inmates than by male staff.

A person holding onto a wire fence Credit: Pixabay/ fifaliana

There is a catch to all of this though, because when men and women are arrested for the same crimes, men tend to receive significantly harsher sentences - and when we say significant, we really mean it. According to Sonja Starr, an assistant law professor at the University of Michigan, men receive sentences that are, on average, 63 per cent higher than males, assessing that, even with other factors considered, there's a "pretty good reason to suspect that disparate treatment may be one of the causes of this gap."

Don't be too quick to judge those with criminal records, however, because no matter how firmly on the straight and narrow you may think you are, you're probably not. A survey of 2000 law-abiding individuals by American home security company Get Safe found that more than 80 per cent would run a red light, steal a candy or pee in public if they knew there would be a financial reward at the end. Even more worryingly, more than 50 per cent would vandalise property, punch a stranger, steal a car or rob a bank! So there's really just one final question... how far would you go for $100? What about $1000?