Identifying Judicial Empathy: Does Having Daughters Cause Judges to Rule for Women's Issues?


Glynn, Adam, and Maya Sen. 2015. “Identifying Judicial Empathy: Does Having Daughters Cause Judges To Rule For Women's Issues?.” American Journal Of Political Science 59 (1): 37-54. Copy at
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In this paper, we ask whether personal relationships can affect the way that judges decide cases. To do so, we leverage the natural experiment of a child's gender to identify the effect of having daughters on the votes of judges. Using new data on the family lives of U.S. Courts of Appeals judges, we find that, conditional on the number of children a judge has, judges with daughters consistently vote in a more feminist fashion on gender issues than judges who have only sons. This result survives a number of robustness tests and appears to be driven primarily by Republican judges. More broadly, this result demonstrates that personal experiences influence how judges make decisions, and it is the first paper to show that empathy may indeed be a component in how judges decide cases.


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