Monday, May 10, 2010

Judging Gender

Since we are likely soon to have a new female associate Justice on the SC....

Untangling the Causal Effects of Sex on Judging

Christina Boyd, Lee Epstein & Andrew Martin
American Journal of Political Science, April 2010, Pages 389-411

We explore the role of sex in judging by addressing two questions of long-standing interest to political scientists: whether and in what ways male and female judges decide cases distinctly — "individual effects" — and whether and in what ways serving with a female judge causes males to behave differently — "panel effects." While we attend to the dominant theoretical accounts of why we might expect to observe either or both effects, we do not use the predominant statistical tools to assess them. Instead, we deploy a more appropriate methodology: semiparametric matching, which follows from a formal framework for causal inference. Applying matching methods to 13 areas of law, we observe consistent gender effects in only one — sex discrimination. For these disputes, the probability of a judge deciding in favor of the party alleging discrimination decreases by about 10 percentage points when the judge is a male. Likewise, when a woman serves on a panel with men, the men are significantly more likely to rule in favor of the rights litigant. These results are consistent with an informational account of gendered judging and are inconsistent with several others.

Several questions occur.

1. "Panel effects"? That is not the way I would have talked about panel effects. What is meant here is the presence or absence of at least one woman on the "panel" deciding. Makes sense, but panel data is an established term.

2. The rap on SDO'C on the court was that she was erratic. (She wrote McConnell v. FEC, which was bizarre, for example). So the difference (and there may not be one) between men and women may be in the variance, not the means. And in spite of the anecdote about Sandra D., it may well be men who have higher variance. I have no idea. Just saying that the difference in the second moment would be an interesting thing to measure...


ericmc said...

yay! i know enough econometrics now to be sure that what you are talking about isn't actually knowable! 16 weeks of speculation based on conjecture! woot woot!

Mungowitz said...

well, THAT is a fair comment, Eric.

One would have to grant the premise that measuring judicial behavior is actually a scientific enterprise in the first place.

And rejecting that premise is certainly fair enough.

Shawn said...

Smith said that commutative justice (abstaining from what is another's) is the only kind of justice that's a grammar--as in, precise and knowable, and therefore enforceable by the state. We can't even agree that the grammatical rules are being precisely carried out in a consistent and measurable way, and now some smith scholars (fleischacker) are trying to take the tiny bit of support smith lent to the sovereign imposing rules on the "loose, vague, and indeterminate" virtues (beneficence, charity, distributive justice) and paint him as a supporter of the whole welfare enterprise.

Seems like bad, to worse.

(off topic, I know, I've just had Smith on the brain for the past semester, and this made me think of it)

ericmc said...

sorry mike
econometrics final today, bad day to post this stuff. That Leamer econ-podcast today doesnt exactly help either. I think i wrote "Qed bitches" after each hypothesis test. I also think I made sure the prof knew that White's test wasn't Betty White, but the lesser known Hal White(no relation I'll guess)