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Do You Receive a Lighter Prison Sentence Because You Are a Woman? An Economic Analysis of Federal Criminal Sentencing Guidelines

53 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2007  

Supriya Sarnikar

Westfield State University; Westfield State University

Todd Sorensen

University of Arizona - Department of Economics

Ronald L. Oaxaca

University of Arizona - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: June 2007

Abstract

The Federal criminal sentencing guidelines struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 required that males and females who commit the same crime and have the same prior criminal record be sentenced equally. Using data obtained from the United States Sentencing Commission's records, we examine whether there exists any gender-based bias in criminal sentencing decisions. We treat months in prison as a censored variable in order to account for the frequent outcome of no prison time. Additionally, we control for the self-selection of the defendant into guilty pleas through use of an endogenous switching regression model. A new decomposition methodology is employed. Our results indicate that women receive more lenient sentences even after controlling for circumstances such as the severity of the offense and past criminal history.

Keywords: discrimination, criminal justice, decomposition analysis, limited dependent variable analysis

JEL Classification: J78, K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Sarnikar, Supriya and Sorensen, Todd and Oaxaca, Ronald L., Do You Receive a Lighter Prison Sentence Because You Are a Woman? An Economic Analysis of Federal Criminal Sentencing Guidelines (June 2007). IZA Discussion Paper No. 2870. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=999358

Supriya Sarnikar

Westfield State University ( email )

Westfield, MA 01086
United States

Westfield State University ( email )

577 Western Avenue
Westfield, MA
United States

Todd Sorensen

University of Arizona - Department of Economics ( email )

McClelland Hall
Tucson, AZ 85721-0108
United States

Ronald L. Oaxaca (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - Department of Economics ( email )

McClelland Hall
Tucson, AZ 85721-0108
United States
520-621-4135 (Phone)
520-621-8450 (Fax)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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