Do Judges Vary in Their Treatment of Race?

45 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2006

See all articles by David Abrams

David Abrams

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Marianne Bertrand

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Sendhil Mullainathan

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: July 5, 2007

Abstract

Does the legal system discriminate against minorities? Systematic racial differences in case characteristics, many unobservable, make this a difficult question to answer. In this paper, we answer a related question about racial bias. Do judges differ in how they sentence minorities? We exploit the random assignment of cases to judges to answer this question. We measure the between-judge variation in the difference in incarceration rates and sentence lengths between African-American and White defendants. In our data set, which includes all felony cases in Cook County, Illinois from 1985-2005, we find statistically significant between-judge variation in incarceration rates, although not in sentence lengths.

Keywords: race, judge, judicial, decision

JEL Classification: J7, K14, K41

Suggested Citation

Abrams, David S. and Bertrand, Marianne and Mullainathan, Sendhil, Do Judges Vary in Their Treatment of Race? (July 5, 2007). Univ. of Chicago, Olin Law and Economics Program, Research Paper Series, Forthcoming, 2nd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=913021 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.913021

David S. Abrams (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Marianne Bertrand

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-834-5943 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://gsbwww.uchicago.edu/fac/marianne.bertrand/vita/cv_0604.pdf

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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617-588-0341 (Phone)
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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Sendhil Mullainathan

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-588-1473 (Phone)
617-876-2742 (Fax)

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