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

Author

Listed:
  • Sarnikar, Supriya

    () (Westfield State College)

  • Sorensen, Todd A.

    () (University of Nevada, Reno)

  • Oaxaca, Ronald L.

    () (University of Arizona)

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Sarnikar, Supriya & Sorensen, Todd A. & Oaxaca, Ronald L., 2007. "Do You Receive a Lighter Prison Sentence Because You Are a Woman? An Economic Analysis of Federal Criminal Sentencing Guidelines," IZA Discussion Papers 2870, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2870
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    9. Max Schanzenbach, 2005. "Racial and Sex Disparities in Prison Sentences: The Effect of District-Level Judicial Demographics," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 57-92, January.
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    11. Richard B. Freeman, 1996. "Why Do So Many Young American Men Commit Crimes and What Might We Do about It?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 25-42, Winter.
    12. Ryan S. Johnson & Shawn Kantor & Price V. Fishback, 2007. "Striking at the Roots of Crime: The Impact of Social Welfare Spending on Crime During the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 12825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    15. Block, Michael K & Gerety, Vernon E, 1995. "Some Experimental Evidence on Differences between Student and Prisoner Reactions to Monetary Penalties and Risk," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(1), pages 123-138, January.
    16. Samuel L. Myers, 1983. "Estimating the Economic Model of Crime: Employment Versus Punishment Effects," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(1), pages 157-166.
    17. Mustard, David B, 2001. "Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Disparities in Sentencing: Evidence from the U.S. Federal Courts," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(1), pages 285-314, April.
    18. Shoshana Neuman & Ronald Oaxaca, 2004. "Wage Decompositions with Selectivity-Corrected Wage Equations: A Methodological Note," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 2(1), pages 3-10, April.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. WOMEN - LENIENT PRISON SENTENCES
      by Yohan in Masculist Advice on 2007-09-10 15:54:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Dina Shatnawi & Ronald Oaxaca & Michael Ransom, 2014. "Movin’ on up: Hierarchical occupational segmentation and gender wage gaps," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 12(3), pages 315-338, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    criminal justice; discrimination; limited dependent variable analysis; decomposition analysis;

    JEL classification:

    • J78 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Public Policy (including comparable worth)
    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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