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Race and Gender Differences under Federal Sentencing Guidelines


  • Todd Sorensen
  • Supriya Sarnikar
  • Ronald L. Oaxaca


Using data from the United States Sentencing Commission, we examine how judicial biases may have influenced sentences during the era of the Federal criminal sentencing guidelines. Our utility maximization model of judicial sentencing preferences leads to a partially censored ordered probit model that accounts for mass points in the sentencing distribution that occur at the upper and lower guideline limits and at sentences involving no prison time. Our results indicate that racial- and gender-based discrepancies exist, even after controlling for circumstances such as the severity of the offense and past criminal history.

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  • Todd Sorensen & Supriya Sarnikar & Ronald L. Oaxaca, 2012. "Race and Gender Differences under Federal Sentencing Guidelines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 256-260, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:3:p:256-60

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Max M. Schanzenbach & Emerson H. Tiller, 2007. "Strategic Judging Under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines: Positive Political Theory and Evidence," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(1), pages 24-56, April.
    2. Anderson, James M & Kling, Jeffrey R & Stith, Kate, 1999. "Measuring Interjedge Sentencing Disparity: Before and After the Federal Sentencing Guidelines," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 271-307, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wayne Geerling & Gary Magee & Vinod Mishra & Russell Smyth, 2016. "Hitler's Judges: Ideological Commitment and the Death Penalty in Nazi Germany," Monash Economics Working Papers 10-16, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    2. Vickers, Chris, 2016. "Socioeconomic status and judicial disparities in England and Wales, 1870–1910," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 32-53.
    3. Sorensen Todd Andrew & Sarnikar Surpriya & Oaxaca Ronald L., 2013. "Do You Receive a Lighter Prison Sentence Because You Are a Woman or a White? An Economic Analysis of the Federal Criminal Sentencing Guidelines," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 14(1), pages 1-54, October.
    4. repec:eee:ecoedu:v:58:y:2017:i:c:p:141-161 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. John MacDonald & Jeremy Arkes & Nancy Nicosia & Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, 2014. "Decomposing Racial Disparities in Prison and Drug Treatment Commitments for Criminal Offenders in California," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(1), pages 155-187.
    6. Dougherty, Shaun M. & Goodman, Joshua S. & Hill, Darryl V. & Litke, Erica G. & Page, Lindsay C., 2017. "Objective course placement and college readiness: Evidence from targeted middle school math acceleration," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 141-161.
    7. Dougherty, Shaun & Goodman, Joshua & Hill, Darryl & Litke, Erica & Page, Lindsay C., 2015. "Early Math Coursework and College Readiness: Evidence from Targeted Middle School Math Acceleration," Working Paper Series rwp15-044, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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