Gender Diversity on High Courts
46 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 2017
Increasing the diversity of political institutions is believed to improve the quality of political discourse and, subsequently, the quality of political outcomes. Moreover, the presence of diverse officials in positions of power signals the openness and fairness of political institutions. These benefits of diversity should be particularly acute in the judiciary, where judges are tasked with the symbolically and substantively powerful duty of interpreting and defending constitutional values. Extant scholarship suggests that well-designed appointment process can promote diversity without explicitly gendered goals, much less quotas. If correct, these proposals raise the possibility of promoting greater diversity without having to resolve politically charged debates about quotas. Yet, scholars disagree about the effects of particular design choices. Worse, estimating causal effects of institutions in observational data is particularly difficult. We develop a research design linked to the empirical implications of existing theoretical arguments to evaluate the effect of institutional change on the gender diversity of peak courts cross-nationally. Specifically, we consider the effect of an increase (or a decrease) in the number of actors involved in the appointment process. We find mixed results for any existing claim about the role of appointment institutions play in increasing diversity. Yet we also find that any institutional change seems to cause an increase in the gender diversity of peak courts.
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