NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Judicial Politics and Sentencing Decisions

Alma Cohen, Crystal Yang

NBER Working Paper No. 24615
Issued in May 2018
NBER Program(s):Law and Economics, Public Economics

This paper investigates whether judge political affiliation contributes to racial and gender disparities in sentencing using data on over 500,000 federal defendants linked to sentencing judge. Exploiting random case assignment, we find that Republican-appointed judges sentence black defendants to 3.0 more months than similar non-blacks and female defendants to 2.0 fewer months than similar males compared to Democratic-appointed judges, 65 percent of the baseline racial sentence gap and 17 percent of the baseline gender sentence gap, respectively. These differences cannot be explained by other judge characteristics and grow substantially larger when judges are granted more discretion.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24615

 
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