What Motivates Hate Offenders?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, race is the most common motivating factor in hate crime offending reported to the police (61 percent), followed by religion (14 percent), sexual orientation (13 percent), ethnicity (11 percent), and victim disability (1 percent). In racially motivated offenses, 60 percent targeted blacks and 30 percent targeted whites. [1]

One study classified hate crime offenders into four categories that differ with respect to the psychological and situational factors that lead to hate crime offending. [2] This typology is widely used by law enforcement for training officers in the investigation and identification of hate crime.

Hate Crime Offender Typology
Offender Type/Characterization
Percent of Offenders

Thrill-seeking. Motivated by the desire for excitement.


Defensive. Commit hate crimes to protect their neighborhood from perceived outsiders.


Retaliatory. Acting in response to a hate crime — either real or perceived.


Mission. So strongly committed to bigotry that they make hate a career.



[note 1] Strom, K.J. Hate Crime Reported in NIBRS, 1997–1999. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001, NCJ 186765.

[note 2] McDevitt, J., J. Levin, and S. Bennett (2002). "Hate Crime Offenders: An Expanded Typology (abstract)." Journal of Social Issues 58(2): 303–317, NCJ 204396.

Date Created: January 9, 2008