DP15909 Unequal Jury Representation and Its Consequences

Author(s): Shamena Anwar, Patrick Bayer, Randi Hjalmarsson
Publication Date: March 2021
Keyword(s): crime, inequality, jury, race, Representation, sentences
JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15909

We analyze the extent and consequences of unequal representation on juries in Harris County, Texas. We first document that residents from predominantly white and high-income neighborhoods are substantially over-represented on juries. Using quasi-random variation in those called for jury duty each day, we next establish that Black defendants are more likely to be convicted and receive longer sentences from juries with more residents from these over-represented neighborhoods. We estimate that equal representation would reduce Black defendants' median sentence length by 50 percent and the probability of receiving a life sentence by 67 percent. Straightforward remedies could mitigate this severe bias.