Putting TRAC to Work
  Legal and Scholarly
Natonal Bureau of Economic Research
May 2018

Judicial Politics and Sentencing Decisions
By Ahma Cohen and Crystal Yang, Harvard Law School

TRAC Fellows Cohen and Yang use proprietary data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) to examine whether judge political affiliation contributes to racial and gender disparities disparities in sentencing using data on over 500,000 federal defendants linked to sentencing judge. Exploiting random case assignment, we find that Republican-appointed judges sentence black defendants to 3.0 more months than similar non-blacks and female defendants to 2.0 fewer months than similar males compared to Democratic-appointed judges, 65 percent of the baseline racial sentence gap and 17 percent of the baseline gender sentence gap, respectively. These differences cannot be explained by other judge characteristics and grow substantially larger when judges are granted more discretion.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2018
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