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Political Science


This paper investigates one causal mechanism that may explain why female judges on the federal appellate courts are more likely than men to side with plaintiffs in sex discrimination cases. To test whether personal experiences with inequality are related to empathetic responses to the claims of female plaintiffs, we focus on the first wave of female judges, who attended law school during a time of severe gender inequality. We find that female judges are more likely than their male colleagues to support plaintiffs in sex discrimination cases, but that this difference is seen only in judges who graduated law school between 1954 and 1975 and disappears when more recent law school cohorts of men and women judges are compared. These results suggest that the effect of gender as a trait is tied to the role of formative experiences with discrimination.

Original Publication Information

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article:

Moyer, Laura P. and Susan Haire. "Trailblazers and Those That Followed: Personal Experiences, Gender, and Judicial Empathy." 2015. Law and Society Review 49(3): 665-689.

which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.