Shamena Anwar, Patrick Bayer, Randi Hjalmarsson, 23 April 2021

In the justice system, the jury is meant to be representative of the community. Yet, juries across the US are often highly unrepresentative, especially for racial minority populations. Using data from Harris County, Texas, this column examines how unequal representation impacts verdicts and sentences. Many zip codes with the highest proportion of white residents are overrepresented on juries. If the jury pool were more reflective of the county, the average sentence would fall by almost 15 years for Black defendants and the likelihood of a life sentence by more than 50%. Policy responses could include expanding the jury source list and oversampling residents from underrepresented neighbourhoods in calls for jury duty.

Christian Dippel, Michael Poyker, 26 June 2019

The US is unusual in that it elects most of its judges. This column uses new data from ten US states to investigate whether those judges change their sentencing pattern when they are due to stand for re-election. The findings reveal evidence of election cycles in sentencing in only four of the ten states. In others, there is anecdotal evidence that professional norms may protect sitting judges from electoral challenge.

Shamena Anwar, Patrick Bayer, Randi Hjalmarsson, 19 April 2016

Women remain underrepresented in many aspects of political and civic life. This column explores the empirical significance of representation, exploiting a 1919 law that made women eligible to serve on English juries. Archival court data show that female representation boosted convictions in sex offenses cases. The magnitude of results highlights how dramatically underrepresentation can influence the functioning of civic institutions.

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