Do Judges Vary in Their Treatment of Race?
45 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2006
Date Written: July 5, 2007
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
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