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The Disproportionate Numbers Argument: Is It Persuasive?

Persuasion is an art. It is speculated that 95% of the time when people think they are being persuasive, they are not. What is the main reason? Most persuaders are basically persuading themselves, not the persuadee (the person to be persuaded). To be effective, the persuader needs to place themselves in the shoes of the other person. What would persuade them?

People are persuaded by logic, emotions, and values.

One logical approach is examining statistics. In the present day thinking, if the numbers are disproportionate then that means there is discrimination occurring and that something is wrong.

A more thoughtful approach must be taken when encountering disproportionate numbers. Actually, in the United States disproportional numbers are ubiquitous. Critical thinking is necessary instead of jumping to conclusions or making assumptions.

For example, there are widely disproportionate numbers when examining males and the law enforcement and legal system.

Males and Crime: Disproportionate Numbers

The U.S. Department of Justice statistics focusing on males and crime are startling. Using the everyday regular thinking about disproportionate numbers, one might conclude that males are being discriminated by the law enforcement and legal system in contrast to females, but using critical thinking, one might reach other conclusions.

Statistics: In 2014, more than 73% of those arrested in the US were males. Men accounted for 80.4% of persons arrested for violent crime and 62.9% of those arrested for property crime.In 2011, the United States Department of Justice compiled homicide statistics in the United States between 1980 and 2008. That study showed the following:

- Males were convicted of the vast majority of homicides in the United States, representing 89.5% of the total number of offenders.

- Young adult black males had the highest homicide conviction rate compared to offenders in other racial and sex categories.

- White females of all ages had the lowest conviction rates of any racial or age groups.

- Of children under age 5 killed by a parent, the rate for biological father conviction was slightly higher than for biological mothers.

- However, of children under 5 killed by someone other than their parent, 80% of the people that were convicted were males.

- Victimization rates for both males and females have been relatively stable since 2000.

- Males were more likely to be murder victims (76.8%).

- Females were most likely to be victims of domestic homicides (63.7%) and sex-related homicides (81.7%).

- Males were most likely to be victims of drug-related (90.5%) and gang-related homicides (94.6%).

2011 arrest data from the FBI:

- Males constituted 98.9% of those arrested for forcible rape.

- Males constituted 87.9% of those arrested for robbery.

- Males constituted 85.0% of those arrested for burglary.

- Males constituted 83.0% of those arrested for arson.

- Males constituted 81.7% of those arrested for vandalism.

- Males constituted 81.5% of those arrested for motor-vehicle theft.

- Males constituted 79.7% of those arrested for offenses against family and children.

- Males constituted 77.8% of those arrested for aggravated assault.

- Males constituted 58.7% of those arrested for fraud.

- Males constituted 57.3% of those arrested for larceny-theft.

- Males constituted 51.3% of those arrested for embezzlement.

Should Assumptions be Made?

Since males comprise approximately 49.2% of the population, most of these numbers are vastly disproportionate.

When folks confront this vastly disproportionate numbers in many categories, should they begin making assumptions?

-Are males being discriminated against by the police?

- by victims?

- by the prosecutor?

- by the legal system?

- by the sentencing system?

- by the prisons and jail system?

Are there subconscious biases that work vs males and in favor of females?

It is time for Critical Thinking?

Females have lower arrest rates than males for virtually all crime categories except prostitution. This is true in all countries for which data are available. It is true for all racial and ethnic groups, and for every historical period. In the United States, women constitute less than 20 percent of arrests for most crime categories.

Females have lower representation than males do in serious crime categories. Since the 1960s in the United States, the extent of female arrests has generally been less than 15% for homicide and aggravated assault, and less than 10% for the serious property crimes of burglary and robbery.”

Are the Legal and Law Enforcement Systems More Lenient Towards Females?

“The criminal justice system's greater 'leniency' and 'chivalry' toward females may explain a portion of the lower official offending rates of women in comparison to men.”

Chivalry: Chivalry makes sense when one examines the male dominance throughout the legal and law enforcement systems.

-73% of judges are male.

-87.4% of police = male.

-83%, prosecutors, male.

-87.2% of detectives, male.

-Males dominated juries in 57%; females dominated 17%.

So, what explains this leniency towards females, whether conscious or subconscious? Some cite the following reasons:

- Pregnancy

- Responsibility for child care

- Many assume that females are more likely to feel remorse.

- Others have the perception that females are less dangerous.

- There is also the perception that females are more amenable to rehabilitation.

There are other issues to be considered:

- Females are less likely to be repeat offenders.

- Females usually operate solo, not in groups. If they do operate in groups, they are usually subservient to males.

- Females are less likely to operate in gangs.

Most of the above are assumptions by the law enforcement and legal system operators. There may be some substance to some of these assumptions.

There is some research sponsored by the National Institute of Corrections that seems to indicate that female offenders are more amenable to rehabilitation. This research notes that most females are less violent than males and have more effective interpersonal skills; that is, skills involving how to fix it. This research goes on to advise prisons and jails that they need to create a more positive atmosphere for females to progress rather than a punishing environment.

The above information and assumptions may explain a slight discrepancy, but not the vast discrepancy between males and females.

Are Males More Violent Than Females?

It is said that most men are not violent; and most people who are violent are men.

Violence is a ubiquitous phenomenon, which has been part of the experience of humanity since its inception. Violence has classically been viewed as being associated with being male. In general population, men are reported to commit violent acts significantly more frequently than women…review of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the gender distinctions in violence and aggression in both general and psychiatric population.”

If the regular person hears about a robbery even if the sex is not named, they instantly envision a young man. This seems sexist or ageist? Maybe, or instead, this vision is grounded in reality.

Is it Nature or Nurture?

No need to debate. It is both.

“…it’s an indirect effect of evolved differences in men and women’s bodies: namely that men are larger, stronger, and faster than women, and that women get pregnant and produce milk for the young. Because of these non-negotiable physical differences, men in every culture are funneled into social roles involving aggression and physical strength, whereas women are funneled into roles involving childcare… Over time, men actually become more aggressive and women become more caring…The psychological sex differences are found in every culture because the physical sex differences are found in every culture. The physical differences are direct products of evolution; the psychological differences are not.”

Disproportionate Number of Male Judges

Law Schools: A wise place to begin to examine this issue is law schools. For the past 3 years, females have outnumbered males in law schools. In 2020, females equaled 54%, but:

“According to a 2018 report from the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, women make up only 22.7% of partners and 19% of equity partners. (Equity partners are lawyers who receive 50% or more of their compensation as equity, i.e. a share in the firm profits.) Moreover, these numbers have barely increased in the last 18 years—a curious statistic considering that the percentages of men and women who attend law schools hasn’t been separated by more than 10% in 33 years.

According to the ABA report, the percentage of women serving as general counsel for Fortune 500 companies was only 26.4% in 2018. The numbers are similarly dismal for law school deans (32.4%) and federal and state level judges (27.1%).”

So the disproportionate number of key legal positions from judges to law school deans to law firm partners is not explained by law school attendance. So the disproportionate numbers seem to happen post law school graduation?

How are Judges Selected?

- Election

- Appointment for a given number of years

- Combinations of these methods, e.g., appointment followed by election

Nineteen states use a combination of appointment by Governor as advised by a judicial committee and then election post the first term. This popular method is called “retention elections.”

“While women make up 51% of the general population, they are severely underrepresented in the judicial branch. A more representative democracy is necessary not just in the legislative branch, but in the judicial one as well where important decisions about the legality of social and political practices are decided.”

Governors select judges. Twenty states have never had a female governor. In 2020, there are only 8 female governors.

Much more research is needed, but one might assume that male governors have a bias towards selecting male judges.

Disproportionate Numbers are Ubiquitous in the US

If one has on their disproportionate detecting glasses, one might see it everywhere in American society. Is this simply a reflection of how American society operates?

- At the University COVID testing center, ten folks are working: all young black females.

- At the local bar, there are 7 part-time employees: all white and young.

- Go to almost any dry cleaners in Washington, DC and it will be Korean=owned with almost all Korean-American workers.

- In Washington, DC, whether it be nonprofit agencies or law firms, 95% of the administrative staff will be female with 85% black.

- Go to most Bob Evans restaurants in Ohio (where Evans was born), most likely one will find a white older male manager with mostly female servers, Hispanic table cleaners and black male cooks.

- A high majority of the East Coast beach servers will be from eastern Europe such as Russia, Slovenia, Armenia, supposedly because US teens will not work. In actuality, they will not work for those low wages.

- US military also shows vast disproportionate numbers. Blacks comprise 29% of active duty enlisted women. Non-Hispanic blacks: Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy shares were between 5.1 percent and 7.7 percent.

- The music industry surely evidences disproportionate numbers. Female charted rappers equal 12%. In popular music, the female rate is 23% female. Overall, women have accounted for 17% of all number-one singles on the Country Airplay chart since it launched in 1990.

- At the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, the highest honor is the Top Artist. Of the nominees, 80% appeared to be black and male ( Drake, Pop Smoke, Weekend, Juice).

Of course, there will be exceptions to all of the above. Can this be explained by our class- oriented society?

Disproportionate Related to Legal Disparate Impact Discrimination

Disproportionate numbers are certain at the core of the concept of “disparate impact treatment,” whether it is intentional or unintentional. Under many discrimination laws, if the impact or effect of an action or behavior results in a “protected class” being treated differently, then discrimination may have occurred. The motive is not important even if the action was supposed to be neutral. An example might be requiring a certain height or weight for police officers leading to a high percentage of women being rejected. Underlying this requirement is the assumption that shorter people are not as strong as taller people.


Logic using statistics can be persuasive.

If statistics include disproportionate numbers, one should take note.

- Do not make assumptions. Assumptions are often connected to bias but conscious and subconscious.

- Do not jump to conclusions.

- Instead, use critical thinking skills. What could account for the disproportionate numbers?

Maybe it is discrimination or maybe there are justifiable reasons.

In the criminal arena, based on all the disproportionate statistics, one might conclude that because of nurture and nature, men are more engaged than women in aggressive, violent behavior that often leads to crimes, arrests, and convictions.

One might also conclude that because of disproportionate number of males in the decision-making of the law enforcement and criminal justice systems, there might be some deference to females; that is, giving them more of a break or making the assumption that males are at fault.


See Recommended Books under “Blogs” drop down menu. Clicking on any book will lead one to the discounted Amazon site.

Roy J. Lewicki is the author of 'Essentials of Negotiation', published 2015 under ISBN 9780077862466 and ISBN 0077862465. Publisher: McGraw Hill Higher Education

The Conflict Resolution Training Program, Leader’s Manual, ISBN: 0-7879-6077-2. Prudence Bowman Kestner and Larry Ray

5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

Getting Your Way Every Day.

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