Heterogeneous Impacts of Sentencing Decisions

74 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2021 Last revised: 19 Dec 2023

See all articles by Andrew Jordan

Andrew Jordan

Washington University in St. Louis

Ezra Karger

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Derek A. Neal

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 21, 2022

Abstract

We examine 70,581 felony court cases filed in Chicago, IL, from 1990–2007. We exploit case randomization to assess the impact of judge assignment and sentencing decisions on the arrival of new charges. We find that, in marginal cases, incarceration creates large and lasting reductions in recidivism among first offenders. Yet, among marginal repeat offenders, incarceration creates only short-run incapacitation effects and no lasting reductions in the incidence of new felony charges. These treatment-impact differences inform ongoing legal debates concerning the merits of sentencing rules that recommend leniency for first offenders while encouraging or mandating incarceration sentences for many repeat offenders. We show that methods that fail to estimate separate outcome equations for first versus repeat offenders or fail to model judge-specific sentencing tendencies separately for cases involving first versus repeat offenders produce misleading results for first offenders.

JEL Classification: K0

Suggested Citation

Jordan, Andrew and Karger, Ezra and Neal, Derek Allen, Heterogeneous Impacts of Sentencing Decisions (October 21, 2022). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2021-113, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3927995 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3927995

Andrew Jordan

Washington University in St. Louis ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1208
Saint Louis, MO MO 63130-4899
United States

Ezra Karger

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago ( email )

230 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604
United States

Derek Allen Neal (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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