Poster Paper: Gender Discrimination in the Decision to Convict

Friday, November 3, 2017
Regency Ballroom (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Mark Hoekstra and Brittany Street, Texas A&M University

While there is a large literature examining gender discrimination in labor markets, there is little research on its effects in the criminal justice system. This paper examines the extent to which juries engage in gender discrimination when making criminal conviction decisions for male and female defendants. To identify effects, we exploit the random variation in assignment to jury pools and the ordering of potential jurors in an instrumental variable approach, combined with variation in defendant gender. Intuitively, we compare the conviction rates of male defendants facing jury pools in which men compose the majority of the slots in the jury panel to the outcomes of female defendants. We do so using detailed administrative data on the juror selection process and trial proceedings for two counties in Florida over the last two years. Preliminary findings indicate that jurors favor own-gender defendants, and that these effects are heterogeneous across various crime categories. This bias has important implications for the criminal justice system, as it indicates that factors unrelated to the facts in the case impact convictions. In addition, these convictions have important social and labor market ramifications for the defendant. Moreover, we find that the bias is strongest for drug-related crimes, which typically carry mandatory minimum sentences.