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Gender Favoritism among Criminal Prosecutors

Stephanie Holmes Didwania

Journal of Law and Economics, 2022, vol. 65, issue 1, 77 - 104

Abstract: Prosecutors enjoy wide discretion in the decisions they make but are largely unstudied by quantitative empirical scholars. This paper explores gender bias in prosecutorial decision-making. I find that male and female prosecutors exhibit small and statistically insignificant differences in their treatment of defendants overall but demonstrate relative leniency toward defendants of their own gender. Such favoritism at charging translates into a sentencing gap of roughly 5 months of incarceration for defendants who are paired with an own-gender prosecutor versus an opposite-gender prosecutor, which represents a roughly 8 percent reduction in sentence length at the mean. The estimates do not appear to be driven by differences in case assignments for male and female prosecutors.

Date: 2022
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