Constitutional Reform and the Gender Diversification of Peak Courts

Constitutional Reform and the Gender Diversification of Peak Courts

By Nancy Arrington, California Polytechnic State University, Leeann Bass, Princeton University, Adam Glynn, Emory University, Jeffrey K. Staton, Emory University, Brian Delgado , Emory University and Staffan I. Lindberg, University Of Gothenburg

Do the processes states use to select judges for peak courts influence gender diversity? Scholars have debated whether concentrating appointment power in a single individual or diffusing appointment power across many individuals best promotes gender diversification. Others have claimed that the precise structure of the process matters less than fundamental changes in the process. We clarify these theoretical mechanisms, derive testable implications concerning the appointment of the first woman to a state’s highest court, and then develop a matched-pair research design within a Rosenbaum permutation approach to observational studies. Using a global sample beginning in 1970, we find that constitutional change to the judicial selection process decreases the time until the appointment of the first woman justice. These results reflect claims that point to institutional disruptions as critical drivers of gender diversity on important political posts.

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