Judicial Politics and Sentencing Decisions

41 Pages Posted: 25 May 2018

See all articles by Alma Cohen

Alma Cohen

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics; Harvard Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Crystal Yang

Harvard Law School

Date Written: May 2018

Abstract

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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Suggested Citation

Cohen, Alma and Yang, Crystal, Judicial Politics and Sentencing Decisions (May 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24615. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3182214

Alma Cohen (Contact Author)

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics ( email )

Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978
Israel

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 496-4099 (Phone)
(617) 812-0554 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Crystal Yang

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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