Vice Squad
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
 
Women, Men, and Vice


On September 28, I linked to Tyler Cowen's post concerning a survey that indicated that
the typical gambler in US casinos is a female. Steve Levitt, economist par excellence at the
University of Chicago, informs me that an informal tally he conducted (in collaboration with
Sudhir Venkatesh) in Chicago suggests that the typical crack buyer is female. Are women
more vice-addled than men?

In general, it seems as if the answer is no. Measures of lifetime prevalence of illicit drug use in the
US indicate that men are some 22 percent more likely than women to have tried illicit drugs. (This
figure is calculated from Table H.14 here.) Men are more than three times as likely to be arrested
for drugs than are women, according to the FBI (see section IV of the 2001 Crime in the United States.)
For alcohol, women are again much less likely to indulge than are men. My suspicion is that drug and
alcohol abuse, as opposed to simple consumption, is even more skewed towards males. A report
prepared for the 1999 National Gambling Impact and Behavior Study indicated that problem
and pathological gambling is some 47 percent more common for men than for women. Indeed, cursory
observation suggests that women are not only likely to have fewer problems with self-control with
respect to vices than men do, but that the influence of women even serves as a bolster to the self-control
of men!

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