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Maya Sen, Doctoral Candidate, Harvard Department of
Social scientists have long maintained that women judges might behave differently than their male colleagues (e.g., Boyd et al. 2010). This is particularly true when it comes to highly charged social issues such as gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and the status of gender as a suspect classification under federal law. Less studied has been the role that a judge's family might have on judicial decision making. For example, we may think that a male judge with daughters might have different views of sex discrimination and harassment than a male judge without daughters. This paper explores this question by leveraging the natural experiment of a child's gender -- conditional on having a child, the sex of the child is randomly assigned (Washington 2008). Looking at data from the U.S. Court of Appeals, we find that having daughters is as predictive of how a judge will vote on gender issues as well as partisanship. We further find that, conditional on the number of children, judges with daughters consistently vote in a more liberal fashion on gender issues than judges without daughters. This effect is robust and persists even once we control for a wide variety of factors, including partisanship. Our results more broadly suggest that personal experiences -- as distinct from partisanship -- may influence how elite actors make decisions, but only in the context of substantively related areas.