Stereotypes in High Stakes Decisions: Evidence from U.S. Circuit Courts
74 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021
Date Written: March 12, 2020
Stereotypes are thought to be an important determinant of decision making, but they are hard to systematically measure, especially for individuals in policy-making roles. In this paper, we propose and implement a novel language-based measure of gender stereotypes for the high-stakes context of U.S. Appellate Courts. We construct a judge-specific measure of gender stereotyped language use – gender slant – by looking at the linguistic association of words identifying gender (male versus female) and words identifying gender stereotypes (career versus family) in the judge’s authored opinions. Exploiting quasi-random assignment of judges to cases and conditioning on detailed biographical characteristics of judges, we study how gender stereotypes influence judicial behavior. We find that judges with higher slant vote more conservatively on women’s rights’ issues (e.g. reproductive rights, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination). These more slanted judges also influence workplace outcomes for female colleagues: they are less likely to assign opinions to female judges, they are more likely to reverse lower-court decisions if the lower-court judge is a woman, and they cite fewer female authored opinions.
Keywords: social psychology; decision making; gender
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