Ethnic Disparity in Criminal Sentences: Evidence from 3 million Court Verdicts in China
Room 3006 (via Lift 3 or Lift 4), Academic Building, HKUST


Sentencing disparity is an underexplored issue in developing countries. Using rich data from 3 million court verdicts in China, we show that criminals from the minorities on average receive sentences that are 3.1 percent longer than those of comparable Han criminals. The disparity is estimated within narrowly defined crime cells and is robust to the inclusion of a rich set of control variables. We also find that the ethnic disparity is greater in western provinces, in regions with lower GDP per capita, and in provinces with larger minority population. Certain minority groups face larger sentence penalty than others. Greater ethnic disparities are observed in more severe crimes. We then investigate how China’s recent sentence guideline reform affects the observed ethnic disparity. Using a difference-of-differences model, we find that the reform effectively eliminates the sentence disparity between Han and minorities. A back of envelope calculation indicates that the reform leads to an annual income gain of more than 62 million dollars for criminals of minorities.

Room 3006 (via Lift 3 or Lift 4), Academic Building, HKUST
Speakers / Performers:
Mr. PENG Wenwei