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.

David Abrams, Roberto Galbiati, Emeric Henry, Arnaud Philippe, 28 November 2019

In the field of criminal justice, there is wide agreement that judges should be both independent and accountable, but little consensus on how to ensure they are both. This column looks at the US state of North Carolina, where judges are elected and forced to rotate between districts. It finds that in the face of electoral incentives, judges behave like politicians in pandering to what they perceive as electors’ preferences, which can result in the unequal treatment of otherwise similar cases.  

David Abrams, Roberto Galbiati, Emeric Henry, Arnaud Philippe, 05 June 2019

The rule of law in advanced democracies is based on the assumption that the law and its application are the same for all citizens. But research has shown that judges respond to ideology or political biases in their sentencing decisions. This column examines how location can also influence criminal court sentences using data from the US state of North Carolina’s superior court system. It shows that, even after controlling for characteristics of judges, sentencing varies by location and responds to local norms.

Sandra Black, Jason Furman, Emma Rackstraw, Nirupama Rao, 06 July 2016

Labour force participation among men ages 25-54 in the US has been falling for more than six decades. This column examines this longstanding decline, its potential causes, and its implications for public policy and the future of the US labour market.

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