Do you receive a lighter prison sentence because you are a woman or a white? An economic analysis of the federal criminal sentencing guidelines

Todd Andrew Sorensen, Surpriya Sarnikar, Ronald L. Oaxaca

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Using data obtained from the United States Sentencing Commission's records, we examine the extent to which the Federal Criminal Sentencing Guidelines curbed judicial sentencing preferences based on gender, race, and ethnicity. Our structural utility maximization model of judicial sentencing and a new generalized nonlinear decomposition methodology allow us to conduct a counterfactual exercise examining the impact of the guidelines on sentences during our period of study. Our results indicate that under the guidelines, and after controlling for circumstances such as the severity of the offense and past criminal history, judicial preferences strongly favor women while also disadvantaging Black men. In most of our estimates, we find that in the absence of the guidelines, judicial preferences would have increased the unexplained gap. Our findings stand up to a wide variety of robustness checks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-54
Number of pages54
JournalB.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

Keywords

  • Criminal justice
  • Discrimination
  • Sentencing guidelines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Do you receive a lighter prison sentence because you are a woman or a white? An economic analysis of the federal criminal sentencing guidelines'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this