Socioeconomic Status And Sentencing Severity Experiment

Type of Experiment

Quasi-experimental design should be used in the study since the primary purpose of the experiment is to investigate the correlation between social-economic status and sentencing equality. Quasi and true experimental designs seek to determine the causal relationship between variables, but critical differences between the two reflect why quasi is the appropriate choice. The quasi-experimental design does not include a random selection of participants, thus is suitable for inherent practical reasons. The study involves the correlation between social-economic status inequality and severity of sentencing; therefore, a researcher cannot randomly assign innates to a particular group due to their inherent characteristics, such as people born poor or rich (Reiman, 2020). The quasi-experiment is also conducted to evaluate the efficiency of an intervention, such as the implementation of the standardized criminal justice system sentencing rules. The quasi research design ensures the research is objective as the researcher is separated from the research participants.

Treatment and Control Group

The research hypothesis seeks to determine whether defendants with low social-economic status are subjected to a different level of sentencing compared to defendants with high social-economic status. Therefore, research will also have two treatment groups: the low and high social income earners. The treatment group should be innates charged with capital offenses such as first or second-degree murder. The target group forms the basis of the hypothesis as their sentencing will constitute the study results. There will be no control group since the research question determines the casual relationship between income inequalities among people from different backgrounds who are either disadvantaged or affluent.

Research Participants

The participants should be adults aged 18 and over, as this is the legal minimum age for incarceration within adult correctional facilities. This eligibility standard filters out juvenile inmates who are treated differently by the criminal justice system. The participants should also be sentenced, thus excluding people in remand, probation, and parole since their experiences are different as they have not been convicted. Participants would be selected by collecting data from official court records. The records will contain information on the social-economic status of the innate and the type of murder. In addition, the records state whether it was first-degree or second-degree murder and the sentencing of each case in terms of length and guilty or not guilty verdict. The law requires attorneys to record court decisions; thus, the information is reliable and accurate.

The Threat to Validity and Variables

There are two types of validity threats: external and internal. External validity refers to the degree to which the study can be applied to situations outside the research context. Internal validity refers to the trustworthiness of the results of a study where the researcher’s bias does not influence the casual relationship. The quasi-experiment will have a lower internal validity and higher external validity. The lower internal validity arises from the internal factors that influence the study results, including the selection bias and history of the sentencing rules.

The selection bias results in a non-equivalent treatment group since the selection is not randomized. In addition, the history of the sentencing rules dates back to the war on drugs in the 1980s; thus, the implementation of those rules affects the sentencing outcomes today. However, the experiment has a high external validity since it involves real-world statistics obtained from court records. There are two independent variables: social-economic status and the type of murder, either first or second degree. The dependent variables include the guilty or not guilty verdict and the length of sentencing.


Reiman, J. (2020). The rich get richer, and the poor get prison: Thinking critically about class and criminal justice (12th ed.). Routledge.