Dr. Helen

Do Male Judges give Preferential Treatment to Women?

It seems that they do, according to this recent article entitled “Racial and Sex Disparities in Prison Sentences: The Effect of District‐Level Judicial Demographics”:


This paper estimates the effect of judicial characteristics (political affiliation, race, and sex) on federal criminal sentencing using variation in judicial characteristics at the district level. The results suggest that judges’ race and sex have little influence on prison sentences in general but do affect racial and sex disparities. For serious offenses, increasing the proportion of female judges in a district decreases the sex disparity. I interpret this as evidence of a paternalistic bias among male judges that favors female offenders. The racial composition of the bench has mixed effects that are open to different interpretations. Finally, there is little evidence that the political composition of the district affects sentencing disparities.

None of this is new. Warren Farrell wrote about men getting longer prison sentences in his work including his book, The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are the Disposable Sex.

However, with more female judges, will this disparity end? I don’t know, that is hard to say. Are the new female judges coming into the courts less biased against men, more biased against their own sex or egalitarians? It remains to be seen.

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