Does an offender's age have an effect on sentence length? A meta-analytic review

Jawjeong Wu, Cassia Spohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Research exploring the effects of an offender's age on unwarranted sentencing disparity has produced conflicting and inconclusive results. Some studies concluded that age was inversely correlated with sentencing severity, whereas others found a positive association. Still others found no significant impact of age on sentencing differentials or that age had a curvilinear effect. Given these inconsistencies, the present research uses meta-analytic methodology to assess empirical findings from a body of sentencing studies. In particular, this research focuses on the imposition of sentence length. Findings from this meta-analysis reveal that the age of the offender has no effect on the length of the prison term and that the strength of the association between the two variables is extremely weak. The homogeneity analysis indicates that variability in effect sizes across contrasts is not due simply to sampling error. A number of moderators related to sample and analytic characteristics account for the differences in effect sizes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-413
Number of pages35
JournalCriminal Justice Policy Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Meta-analysis
  • Sentence length
  • Sentencing disparity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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