Open Access
Agha, Suzanne Elizabeth
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 28, 2005
Committee Members:
  • Darrell J Steffensmeier, Committee Chair
  • Leif Jensen, Committee Member
  • John Kramer, Committee Member
  • Eric Silver, Committee Member
  • Marylee Carmel Taylor, Committee Member
  • crime
  • female crime
  • gender gap
  • cross-national
  • development
  • female status
National development is an important and complex process with significant consequences for many aspects of social life. There is contention surrounding the differential affects of development on men and women. Furthermore, it has been suggested that development can impact a country’s level of criminal offending. This dissertation brings together these themes by investigating the relationship between development and the gender gap in offending. Previous investigations of this relationship are limited and they have somewhat mixed results. This project is both a replication and extension of an article by Steffensmeier et. al. (1989) investigating several alternative explanations for the relationship between development and the female share of offending. A major theme in the literature on female crime has focused on the connection between female status and female crime. The liberation hypothesis suggests that development leads to greater equality between men and women, and that these changes in gender equality lead to a greater female share of offending. Alternatively, it has been argued that development marginalizes females relative to males, also leading to an increase in the female share of offending. Other research has suggested different ways in which development may impact the female share of offending. Development may lead to changes in the formalization of the mechanisms of social control, which can differentially impact male and female arrest rates. Additionally, the growth in opportunities for consumer crime that is associated with development may differentially impact male and female offending rates and the proportion of arrests accounted for by females. This research asks the following questions 1) What are the effects of development on female crime and the gender gap? 2) To what extent are the effects of development on the female share of offending explained by changes in the relative status of women, opportunity for consumer crime, and formalization of the mechanisms of social control? These questions are assessed using international sex-specific arrest data from the Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization) and population figures from the U.S. Census International Database. Five offense categories are included: total crime, homicide, robbery, theft, and fraud. The primary dependent variable is the female percentage of arrests, a measure of the proportion of all arrests that are of females, controlling for the sex distribution in the population. Data for predictor variables comes from the World Bank, United Nations, and the International Labor Office. Ordinary Least Squares regression techniques are used to assess the relationship between predictor variables and the female percentage of arrests. The mediation effects of formalization, opportunity, and relative female status are assessed using the Clogg Test for mediation. Overall, the results demonstrate that more highly developed countries have a higher female percentage of arrests, although there is little variation cross-nationally in the female share of arrests for robbery and homicide. More formalized criminal justice systems are associated with a higher female share of total crime and robbery offending. The effect of opportunity for consumer crime was difficult to discern given its correlation with development, but increased opportunity is related to a higher female share of theft offending. Assessment of relative female status demonstrated that it was predictive of the FPA for fraud, but that it had very weak effects on the female share of arrests for total crime, homicide, robbery, and theft.