Social & Education Policy


City Level Study of Gender and Arrests for Violence, 1970-2000

One of the most robust findings in the criminological literature is that men commit more violent crime than women. Overall, arrest rates for all crimes in the U.S. have declined since the 1960s, however national arrest data show an increase in women’s contributions to overall crime rates (with the exception of homicide) from 1960 to present. One possible explanation of these patterns is that the economic hardships faced by low-income women contribute to their involvement in criminal offending.

This of course raises questions about whether recent cuts in welfare benefits and the shrinking safety net have contributed to increases in women’s criminal offending. Two papers were produced to speak to these issues. Both use data on male and female arrests from the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) for the period 1970 to 2000 for the 100 largest U.S. cities. The findings represent the first attempts to link women’s economic marginalization and social welfare programs, such as AFDC/TANF and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), to the gender gap in violent offending. These studies are also the first attempts to examine these associations across U.S. cities and over time. The findings suggest that when women are economically marginalized relative to men, the gender rate ratio of female to male arrests increases.