Sentencing and State-Level Racial and Ethnic Contexts

Xia Wang, Daniel P. Mears

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Sentencing studies have incorporated social context in studying sentencing decisions, but to date the bulk of prior work has focused almost exclusively on county context. An unresolved question is whether there also may be state-level effects on sentencing. Drawing from the minority threat perspective, we examine (1) whether state-level racial and ethnic contexts affect sentencing, (2) whether this effect amplifies the effect of county-level racial and ethnic contexts on sentencing, and (3) whether the interaction of county-level and state-level contextual effects is greater for minorities than for whites. Analysis of State Court Processing Statistics and other data indicates that state-level racial and ethnic contexts are associated with sentencing outcomes and that this effect may differ by outcome (e.g., incarceration versus sentence length) and by type of context (e.g., racial or ethnic). The study's findings and their implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)883-915
Number of pages33
JournalLaw and Society Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Sociology and Political Science

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