Using birth cohort conviction records, this study estimates that around 640,000 males and 54,000 females aged 46 years or under had been ‘persistent offenders’ at some point in their lives. These figures represent 4.7 per cent and 0.4 per cent of the relevant male and female population respectively. Both male and female offenders who are first convicted at a young age are much more likely to become persistent offenders than their older counterparts. While young male offenders are at much greater risk of becoming persistent offenders than females, young female offenders are becoming increasingly more like males. It is vital that gender differences are not neglected. While the proportion of young offenders who become persistent is increasing, the proportions are fairly stable for offenders aged 20 and over. However, the numbers of both general and persistent young offenders show recent dramatic falls not evident among older offenders. For males aged 20 and over, the numbers are largely stable, while the numbers fall much less sharply for these older females. The present climate of focusing on younger offenders, especially persistent ones, may be having the desired effect of reduced numbers, but it is important that the ongoing situation with these older offenders is not overlooked.