Racial, Ethnic and Gender Disparities in Sentencing: Evidence from the Us Federal Courts
Posted: 6 Mar 2001
This paper examines 77,236 federal offenders sentenced under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 and concludes the following. First, after controlling for extensive criminological, demographic and socioeconomic variables, I found that blacks, males and offenders with low education and low income receive substantially longer sentences. Second, disparities are primarily generated by departures from the guidelines, rather than differential sentencing within the guidelines. Departures produce about 55% of the black-white difference and 70% of the male-female difference. Third, although black-white disparities occur across offenses, the largest differences are for drug trafficking. The Hispanic-white disparity is generated primarily by those convicted of drug trafficking and firearm possession/trafficking. Last, blacks and males are also less likely to get no prison term when that option is available, less likely to receive downward departures, more likely to receive upward adjustments, and conditioned on having a downward departure, receive smaller reductions than whites and females.
Keywords: Sentencing, federal courts, Sentencing Reform Act, Race, Gender, Disparities, US Sentencing Commission, sentencing guidelines
JEL Classification: K4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation