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Motivations and Characteristics of Hate Crime Offenders

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2010
4 pages

This brief by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) summarizes the findings and methodology of the Bias Incidents and Actors Study (BIAS), a multi-method project that examined the characteristics, motivations, and behaviors of a sample of persons who committed hate crimes in the United States from 1990 through 2018.


The study relied on a dataset of 689 violent and 277 nonviolent bias-crime offenders who committed crimes based on a victim’s 1) race, ethnicity, and nationality; 2) religion; 3) sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity; 4) age; or 5) disability. The persons in the database were randomly selected from a pool of potential subjects reviewed for inclusion criteria and minimum information requirement. Hate-crime charges or hate-crime sentencing enhancements were not required for individuals to be included in the database. The dataset was coded from open-source materials based on 100 variable fields with information on hate-crime events; victim characteristics; and offender motivations, demographics, and personal histories. Data analysis determined that bias toward individuals based on their race, ethnicity, or nationality was the prevalent (n-171) motivation of offenders in the dataset. This was followed in prevalence by bias based on religion (n-235) and sexual orientation and gender identity (n-171). From 2014 through 2018, there was an increase in the number of offenders with these motivations. The bias-crime offenders were diverse in their demographic and background characteristics; however, regardless of the target and motivation for their hate crime, offenders had significantly higher than average rates for the general population of low educational attainment, poor work performance, mental illness, substance abuse, and criminal histories. The majority (70.7 percent) of violent offenders targeted victims based on race, ethnicity, or nationality. 1 table and 3 figures

Date Published: October 1, 2010