All research concludes that males dominate youth gang membership, but estimates of the proportions of female representation vary widely. Some researchers contend that law enforcement agencies tend to minimize female gang membership. Curry (1998) suggests that law enforcement may be less likely to identify females as gang members than males because of females lower levels of criminality. Respondents in 1998 reported that 92 percent of gang members in their jurisdictions were male (see table 14). This is a small increase from the 90 percent reported by 1996 survey respondents.
Female gang members were least prevalent in large cities (7 percent) and most prevalent in small cities (12 percent) and rural counties (11 percent). As shown in table 15, female gang members were more prevalent in the Northeast (13 percent) than in other regions. Their representation was lowest in the Midwest (5 percent), far lower than in the Northeast.
Female-dominated gangs. In 1998, survey respondents were asked to estimate the percentage of youth gangs in their jurisdictions that were made up entirely or mostly (more than 50 percent) of females. Survey responses indicated that less than 2 percent (1.76 percent) of all gangs in the United States in 1998 were female dominated. Table 16 shows that 833 jurisdictions (83 percent) reported no such gangs. Of the 171 jurisdictions reporting female-dominated gangs, 143 reported that these gangs represented only 14 percent or less of total gangs in their jurisdictions.
Table 17 shows that the percentage of female-dominated youth gangs was highest in the Northeast; however, the South reported the largest number of female-dominated gangs (123).
As shown in table 18, female-dominated gangs were most prevalent in the largest jurisdictions. The smallest percentages were in the least populated areas (populations of 10,000 or less).