Publications by Year: 2015

Sen, Maya. 2015. “How Ratifying Treaty Rights Could Affect Norms, Laws, and Constitutional Language (Comment).” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 171 (1): 112-117. Publisher's Version Abstract

Why do some countries incorporate language from international treaties into their constitutions? Why do others not do so? This is among the most important questions in international law as well as the focus of Versteeg’s (2015) thought-provoking article “Law versus Norms: The Impact of Human-Rights Treaties on National Bills of Rights.” Versteeg’s data, among the most original and important in this field, lead us to think that treaties affect both norms and laws, which in turn affect constitutional language development. Building from this work, I advocate that scholars ought to think carefully about the complicated counterfactuals and causal processes behind the process of constitutional language change and to engage further the observational implications of the explanation in terms of norms versus those in terms of institutions. Thinking more carefully about the causal pathways, as well as the appropriate counterfactuals, could open up important avenues for exploring possible mechanisms for domestic constitutions to be affected by international treaties.

Hochschild, Jennifer, and Maya Sen. 2015. “Genetic Determinism, Technology Optimism, and Race: Views of the American Public.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 661 (1): 160-180. Publisher's Version Abstract

We begin with a typology of Americans’ understanding of the links between genetic inheritance and racial or ethnic groups. The typology has two dimensions: one running from genetic determinism to social construction, and the other from technology optimism to technology pessimism. Construing each dimension as a dichotomy enables four distinct political perspectives on the possibilities for reducing racial inequality in the United States through genomics. We then use a new public opinion survey to analyze Americans’ use of the typology. Survey respondents who perceive that some phenotypes are more prevalent in one group than another due to genetic factors are disproportionately technology optimists. Republicans and Democrats are equally likely to hold that set of views, as are self-identified blacks, whites, and Latinos. The article discusses the findings and speculates about alternative interpretations of the fact that partisanship and group identity do not differentiate Americans in their views of the links between genetic inheritance and racial inequality.

Monroe, Burt L, Jennifer Pan, Margaret E Roberts, Maya Sen, and Betsy Sinclair. 2015. “No! Formal Theory, Causal Inference, and Big Data are Not Contradictory Trends in Political Science.” PS: Political Science and Politics 48 (1): 71-74. Publisher's Version Abstract

New types of and approaches to data are enabling new forms of data-intensive political science, some of which in isolation appear to challenge established models of inquiry in political science and science more generally. We argue, however, that none of this means that big data is fundamentally incompatible with formal theory, causal inference, or social science research methods in general. To the contrary, big data already is interacting with formal theoretic and causal inference approaches in ways that are not only consistent with these approaches but that also enhance them by enabling us to answer new questions.

Hochschild, Jennifer, and Maya Sen. 2015. “Technology Optimism or Pessimism About Genomic Science: Variation Among Experts and Scholarly Disciplines.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 658 (1): 236-252. Publisher's Version Abstract

Experts, like lay people, express varying levels of technology optimism or pessimism about scientific endeavors. However, explanations for this variation are underdeveloped. We explore technology optimism and pessimism among experts, who have high levels of scientific literacy but different values and norms. We focus on genomic science; its novelty, life-and-death implications, complex technology, and broad but as-yet-unknown societal implications make it an excellent subject for the study of views about new knowledge. After demonstrating the range of views through elite interviews, we analyze results of two content analyses of about 750 articles by prominent social scientists, law professors, and biologists. Some disciplines pay more attention to genomics than others, and they differ in their valences; experts in more liberal disciplines tend to be less optimistic about genomics than scholars in relatively more conservative disciplines. We speculate on why genomics is an exception to the general finding that liberals are more supportive of science than conservatives.

Sen, Maya. 2015. “Is Justice Really Blind? Race and Appellate Review in U.S. Courts.” Journal of Legal Studies 44 (S1): 187-229. Publisher's Version Abstract

In this paper, I use two new data sets to demonstrate that black federal judges are consistently overturned on appeal more often than similar white judges. The effect is robust and persists after taking into account previous professional and judicial experience, educational backgrounds, qualification ratings assigned by the American Bar Association, and differences in partisanship. This study is the first to explore how higher-court judges evaluate opinions written by judges of color, and it has clear implications: despite attempts to make judiciary more reflective of the general population, racial disparities within the legal system continue to persist.


Winner, 2012 Best Graduate Student Paper Prize -- American Political Science Association Law & Courts Section

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. Publisher's Version Abstract

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.


DNA ancestry testing may seem frivolous, but it points to two crucial questions: First, what is the relationship, if any, between biology and race? Second, how much and why do people prefer clear, singular racial identities over blurred, mixed racial self-understandings, or the reverse? We posit that individuals of different racial or ethnic backgrounds will have different levels of support for this new technology. In particular, despite the history of harm caused by the biologization of race, we theorize that African Americans will be receptive to the use of DNA ancestry testing because conventional genealogical searches for ancestral roots are mostly unavailable to them. This “broken chain” theory leads to two hypotheses, of disproportionately high Black interest in DNA ancestry testing—thus an implicit acceptance of a link between biology and race—and high acceptance among Blacks of multiple heritages despite a preference for evidence of roots in Africa.

To test these hypotheses, we analyze two databases of U.S. newspaper articles, one with almost 6,000 items and a second with 700. We also analyze two new public opinion surveys of nationally representative samples of adult Americans. Most of the evidence comes from the second survey, which uses vignettes to obtain views about varied results of DNA ancestry testing. We find that the media increasingly report on the links between genetic inheritance and race, and emphasize singular racial ancestry more than multiple heritages. The surveys show, consistent with our theory, that Blacks (and Hispanics, to some degree) are especially receptive to DNA ancestry testing, and are pleased with not only a finding of group singularity but also a finding of multiple points of origin. Qualitative readings of media reports illuminate some of the reasons behind these survey findings. We conclude with a brief discussion of the broader importance of DNA ancestry testing.