Descriptive Representation and Judicial Outcomes in Multiethnic Societies

Guy Grossman, Oren Gazal-Ayal, Samuel D. Pimentel, Jeremy M. Weinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The extent to which judicial outcomes depend on judges' identities is a central question in multiethnic societies. Past work on the impact of the racial composition of appellate courts has narrowly focused on civil rights cases in the United States. We expand this literature by testing for ethnicity-based panel effects in criminal appeals in Israel. Using randomness in the assignment of cases to panels, we find that appeal outcomes for Jewish defendants are independent of panels' ethnic composition. By contrast, panel composition is highly consequential for Arab defendants, who receive more lenient punishments when their case is heard by a panel that includes at least one Arab judge, compared to all-Jewish panels. The magnitude of these effects is sizable: a 14-20% reduction in incarceration and a 15-26% reduction in prison sentencing. These findings contribute to recent debates on the relationship between descriptive representation and substantive outcomes in judicial bodies.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)44-69
Number of pages26
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Sociology and Political Science


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