Unequal Jury Representation and Its Consequences
We analyze the extent and consequences of unequal representation on juries in Harris County, Texas. We first document that residents from predominantly white and high-income neighborhoods are substantially over-represented on juries. Using quasi-random variation in those called for jury duty each day, we next establish that Black defendants are more likely to be convicted and receive longer sentences from juries with more residents from these over-represented neighborhoods. We estimate that equal representation would reduce Black defendants’ median sentence length by 50 percent and the probability of receiving a life sentence by 67 percent. Straightforward remedies could mitigate this severe bias.
Hjalmarsson is grateful for the financial support of Vetenskapsrådet, The Swedish Research Council, Grants for Distinguished Young Researchers. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.