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Ramadan fasting increases leniency in judges from Pakistan and India


An Author Correction to this article was published on 19 May 2023

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We estimate the impact of the Ramadan fasting ritual on criminal sentencing decisions in Pakistan and India from half a century of daily data. We use random case assignment and exogenous variation in fasting intensity during Ramadan due to the rotating Islamic calendar and the geographical latitude of the district courts to document the large effects of Ramadan fasting on decision-making. Our sample comprises roughly a half million cases and 10,000 judges from Pakistan and India. Ritual intensity increases Muslim judges’ acquittal rates, lowers their appeal and reversal rates, and does not come at the cost of increased recidivism or heightened outgroup bias. Overall, our results indicate that the Ramadan fasting ritual followed by a billion Muslims worldwide induces more lenient decisions.

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Fig. 1: The impact of Ramadan hours in Pakistan.
Fig. 2: Impact of Ramadan for Muslim versus non-Muslim judges in India—extensive margin.

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Data availability

The data and code of the paper are replicable and reproducible using publicly available data. The dataset and code for the current study are available at the following link: The link contains zipped folders that include the code and data used to run the analysis along with a README file to explain the steps needed to run the code and replicate the results of the paper.

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We thank S. Michalopoulos, M. Kremer, P. Pinotti, P. Arnaud, E. Powell, B. Ali, E. Chaney, D. Clingingsmith, E. Zhuravskaya, E. Ash, J. Rubin, A. Sdiez and A. Shleifer for their helpful suggestions and feedback. D.L.C. acknowledges IAST funding from the French National Research Agency under the Investments for the Future (Investissements d’Avenir) programme, grant no. ANR-17-EUR-0010. A.S. acknowledges funding from the French National Research Agency under grant no. ANR-17-EURE-0020 and from the Excellence Initiative of Aix-Marseille University—A*MIDEX. This research has also benefitted from the financial support of the research foundation TSE-Partnership. S. Khalid and B. Ali provided excellent research assistance. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

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S.M., A.S. and D.L.C. conceived the research, put together the data, conducted the analyses and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Sultan Mehmood.

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Nature Human Behaviour thanks Filipe Campante, Rinchan Mirza and Nishith Prakash for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Sections 1–7, including Figs. 1–4 and Tables 1–15.

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Mehmood, S., Seror, A. & Chen, D.L. Ramadan fasting increases leniency in judges from Pakistan and India. Nat Hum Behav 7, 874–880 (2023).

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