The influence of race on sentencing: A meta-analytic review of experimental studies


  • Laura T. Sweeney M.A.,

    Graduate Student in Psychology
    1. University of California at Santa Cruz
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  • Craig Haney Ph.D., J.D.

    Professor of Psychology, Corresponding author
    1. University of California at Santa Cruz
    • Stevenson College, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95604, USA. [Telephone: 408-459-2153; FAX: 408-459-3334.]
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This article presents a meta-analytic review of simulation studies that examine the effect of defendant's race on jurors' sentencing decisions. Several narrative reviews have characterized the results of these studies as inconsistent or demonstrating only occasional effects. In contrast, the present meta-analysis indicated significant overall support for the hypothesis that racial bias influences sentencing decisions. In addition, our analysis failed to support several common generalizations that have been made about this literature. That is, we did not find that stronger results were associated with older studies, those taking place in the southern US, or those involving the crime of rape. Instead, several components of methodological rigor—the nature of the race manipulation, presence of controls for victim's race, and specification of the race of the subject sample—were most closely associated with stronger results in these studies.