An Empirical Analysis of Judging Bias by Sex, Region & Side

34 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2011 Last revised: 9 Jul 2011

See all articles by Clifford Chad Henson

Clifford Chad Henson

Texas A&M School of Law; Property & Environment Research Center

Paul R. Dorasil

University of Florida

Date Written: July 7, 2011


Conventional wisdom among those involved in competitive academic debate holds that, despite an emphasis on objective decision-making, factors other than skill affect the outcomes of rounds. This study examines all debate rounds at the Lincoln Douglas Debate Tournament of Champions from 2004-2009. We estimate predictions of round outcomes based on transitivity and the outcomes of other rounds observed in the tournament in order to evaluate the potential for bias and control for the relative skill of debaters. We develop a binomial choice model to estimate the marginal effects of various biases. In particular, we find statistical evidence of bias related to regional affiliation and topic side. These factors may explain the significant number of non-transitive outcomes in the data. Finally, we suggest some policy remedies to mitigate the impact of biases and further applications of our methodology.

Keywords: debate, discrimination, bias, sex, judging, education

JEL Classification: I21, J16, J71, L83

Suggested Citation

Henson, Clifford Chad and Dorasil, Paul R., An Empirical Analysis of Judging Bias by Sex, Region & Side (July 7, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Clifford Chad Henson (Contact Author)

Texas A&M School of Law

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States

Property & Environment Research Center ( email )

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

Paul R. Dorasil

University of Florida ( email )

Gainesville, FL 32611-7140
United States

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