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United States. Supreme Court, Judges -- Selection and appointment -- Evaluation, Women judges


The presence of women justices in the highest court varies significantly from country to country. Using an original data set of women’s representation in the highest constitutional courts in 50 democracies, we assess the causes of this variation. We find, contrary to the prevailing view, that the strength of the institution is not significantly related to the number of women on the court. Instead, we find that the existence of a “sheltered” versus “exposed” selection mechanism is the critical determinant of women’s presence. That is, when the selectors are sheltered from electoral accountability, they are less likely to select women as judges because they do not benefit from credit claiming. When the selectors are exposed and can claim credit, however, the unique traits and visibility of the highest court generate an incentive to appoint women.


Author's version of a paper prepared for the 2014 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Washington, D.C.

A revised version of this paper was subsequently published in Political Research Quarterly 2016, Vol. 69(4), available at

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