Racial and Sex Disparities in Prison Sentences: The Effect of District-Level Judicial Demographics
This paper estimates the effect of judicial characteristics (political affiliation, race, and sex) on federal criminal sentencing using variation in judicial characteristics at the district level. The results suggest that judges’ race and sex have little influence on prison sentences in general but do affect racial and sex disparities. For serious offenses, increasing the proportion of female judges in a district decreases the sex disparity. I interpret this as evidence of a paternalistic bias among male judges that favors female offenders. The racial composition of the bench has mixed effects that are open to different interpretations. Finally, there is little evidence that the political composition of the district affects sentencing disparities.
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