Gender Effects Across Place: A Multilevel Investigation of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Region in Sentencing

Melanie M. Holland, Ariane Prohaska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Previous empirical research has indicated that women receive less punitive sentencing outcomes, compared to their male counterparts, while controlling for legally relevant case characteristics. This advantage persists at the federal level, despite the implementation of sentencing guidelines. However, drawing from the “intersectionalities” literature, it does not appear as though all women are equal beneficiaries of this courtroom leniency. Specifically, women of color are less inclined to receive sentencing benefits in response to the differential stereotyping of this demographic. Furthermore, due to differing sociohistorical contexts and gender ideologies, the influence of gender on sentencing outcomes will likely vary across place. This study contributes to the existing sentencing literature by examining whether, and to what extent, gender leniency is moderated by race/ethnicity and geographic region. Using data from the 2015 Monitoring of Federal Criminal Sentences, this study finds that women receive shorter sentence lengths than men. However, contrary to expectation, women of color receive shorter sentences than White women. Additionally, women who are adjudicated in the southern and border districts receive significantly longer sentences. These findings demonstrate the importance of contextualizing and disaggregating female criminal justice outcomes as well as the need to limit research and discourse that imply a singular shared experience among all women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-112
Number of pages22
JournalRace and Justice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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