Maya Sen

Harris, Allison, and Maya Sen. “How Judges' Professional Experience Impacts Case Outcomes: An Examination of Public Defenders and Criminal Sentencing”. Working Paper. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract
How do judges' previous professional experiences affect case outcomes? In this short article, we investigate the question by documenting the effect of judges' previous criminal justice experience on sentencing. Leveraging thousands of federal sentences from 2010 to 2019, we find that defendants with charges assigned to a former public defender are, on average, less likely to be incarcerated. In some cases, their sentences are also shorter, which we show is partially attributable to former defenders being less likely to give out extremely long sentences. The findings make two key contributions. First, they contribute to growing evidence of disparities in the criminal legal system, particularly those associated with judge characteristics. Second, the findings showcase the potential impact of judges' previous professional experience (as opposed to demographic characteristics) on decision-making. Both illustrate a new strategy in how political actors can influence policy through judicial selection on the basis of professional experience.
Unkovic, Cait, Maya Sen, and Kevin M. Quinn. “Does Encouragement Matter in Improving Gender Imbalances in Technical Fields? Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial”. HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series (2015). Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Education policy research looking at gender imbalances in technical fields often relies on observational data or small N experimental studies. Taking a different approach, we present the results of one of the first and largest randomized controlled trials on the topic. Using the 2014 Political Methodology Annual Meeting as our context, half of a pool of 3,945 political science graduate students were randomly assigned to receive two personalized emails encouraging them to apply to the conference (n = 1,976), while the other half received nothing (n = 1,969). We find a robust, positive effect associated with this simple intervention and suggestive evidence that women respond more strongly than men. However, we find that women's conference acceptance rates are higher within the control group than in the treated group. This is not the case for men. The reason appears to be that female applicants in the treated group solicited supporting letters at lower rates. The contributions from this research are twofold. First, our findings are among the first large-scale randomized controlled interventions in higher education. Second, and less optimistically, our findings suggest that such "low dose" interventions may promote diversity in STEM fields, but that they have the potential to expose underlying disparities when used alone or in a non-targeted way.

Sen, Maya, and Omar Wasow. “Race as a ‘Bundle of Sticks’: Designs that Estimate Effects of Seemingly Immutable Characteristics”. (2014). Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Although understanding the role of race, ethnicity, and identity is central to political science, methodological debates persist about whether it is possible to estimate the effect of something ``immutable.'' At the heart of the debate is an older theoretical question: is race best understood under an essentialist or constructivist framework? In contrast to the ``immutable characteristics'' or essentialist approach, we argue that race should be operationalized as a ``bundle of sticks'' that can be disaggregated into elements. With elements of race, causal claims may be possible using two designs: (1) studies that measure the effect of exposure to a racial cue and (2) studies that exploit within-group variation to measure the effect of some manipulable element. These designs can reconcile scholarship on race and causation and offer a clear framework for future research.

Sen, Maya. “How Minority Judicial Candidates Have Changed, but the ABA Ratings Gap Has Not”. Judicature 98.1 (2014): , 98, 1, 46-53. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This study presents an exploration of trends in the American Bar Association ratings of minority judicial candidates over time. Notably, the demographics of minority candidates have changed over time, with minority candidates increasingly resembling white candidates in terms of their educational and professional profiles. However, minority candidates are still more likely to receive lower ratings from the ABA than their white counterparts.

Pages