Judging Women


  • Thanks to Rick Abel, Christina Boyd, Ros Dixon, Maxine Eichner, Laura Gomez, Sung Hui Kim, Jack Knight, Ann McGinley, David Levi, Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Jeff Rachlinski, Un Kyung Park, Gowri Ramachandran, Jon Tomlin, and participants at workshops at Duke, UNM, and Southwestern law schools for comments. Special thanks to Charles Clotfelter and Lee Epstein for comments on multiple occasions. Choi wishes to thank the Filomen D'Agostino and Max E. Greenberg Research Fund for providing summer research support for this article.

Eric Posner, University of Chicago Law School, 1111 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637; email: eric_posner@law.uchicago.edu. Choi is at New York University Law School; Gulati is at Duke University Law School; Holman is at Florida Atlantic University—Political Science; Posner is at University of Chicago Law School.


Justice Sonia Sotomayor's assertion that female judges might be better than male judges has generated accusations of sexism and potential bias. An equally controversial claim is that male judges are better than female judges because the latter have benefited from affirmative action. These claims are susceptible to empirical analysis. Using a data set of all the state high court judges in 1998–2000, we estimate three measures of judicial output: opinion production, outside state citations, and co-partisan disagreements. For many of our tests, we fail to find significant gender effects on judicial performance. Where we do find significant gender effects for our state high court judges, female judges perform better than male judges. An analysis of data from the U.S. Court of Appeals and the federal district courts produces roughly similar findings.