The female half of a crime duo is the smarter one

March 23, 2014 - 06:36

When a man and a woman are partners in crime, the woman is most likely to succeed. Researcher believes this is due to an attitude of discrimination.

Bonnie is said to have been smarter than Clyde. Did she not find a smarter partner because she underestimated herself? (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

“The woman is the smarter member in a criminal partnership between a man and a woman. Men have the highest chance of failing and ending up in prison after committing a crime,” says Eva Gavrilova.

Gavrilova is a researcher at the University of Turin in Italy, and a guest researcher at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH).

Data from the FBI

She uses new and radical methods to find out whether the different treatment woman experience in other arenas, for example in the labour market, are due to discrimination.

Gavrilova uses up-to-date American crime data, published by the FBI. Detailed information about all types of crimes: Who gets arrested and what they are charged with.

She has studied crimes against property such as robberies, burglaries and thefts.

Unregulated areas of society

“If discrimination is behind differences in wages or other forms of unequal treatment of women, we would expect to find discrimination in areas of society that are not regulated, such as the criminal market,” Gavrilova explains.

Researchers cannot achieve perfect observations in the labour market. The information is distorted by factors that are impossible to control.

“We can use administrative data about employers and employees, but it does not give us the complete picture of why women in general earn less than men,” says Gavrilova.

Women get away with it

The researcher’s findings are clear: 

A man in a criminal partnership with a woman runs a much higher risk of being arrested and charged than the woman.

Women get away with criminal acts more often than men do.

“Interestingly, the opposite is the case when women commit crimes on their own. In such cases, a woman has a poorer chance of succeeding,” says Gavrilova.

“But when they join forces with men, women are always the more successful ones”.

Due to discrimination

The researcher believes the phenomenon is due to discrimination.

“The man thinks he runs a greater risk when he chooses a woman as his accomplice. He therefore wants to make a very clever choice, and chooses a woman who is smarter than him.”

“When women choose a partner, they either underestimate themselves or they overestimate their male partners,” she says.

Not rational decisions

She emphasises that the finds are not because men carry out the more risky parts of the crime. The data shows that partners in a crime duo commit the same crimes, and the same charges are brought against them if they are both caught.

The researcher concludes that the choice of partner is not a rational decision, but rather based on an attitude of discrimination.

She believes the conclusion also holds for other areas in society. Both work life and marriage.

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NHH was founded in 1936. With its affiliated institutes SNF and AFF, NHH constitutes the oldest and largest centre for research and study in the fields of economics and business administration in Norway. Read more

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