Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 07 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Social background theory formalizes and tests the intuition that judges’ attributes and experiences will affect their rulings. Attributes can include race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, religion, and socioeconomic background. Experience can include education, occupation, and political activism. Social background theory is a positive theory rather than a normative one: it treats these factors as an explanation for a judge’s actions. Social background theory has a history of intentional scholarly integration of ideas and methods in other fields. The theory can be seen as evolving through four stages tied to that integration: Legal Realism, behavioralism, new institutionalism, and computation. After briefly assessing the contributions and limitations of the theory, the chapter ends with a proposal for a relevancy threshold for social background research.

Keywords: social background theory, judicial politics, federal courts, U.S. Supreme Court, race, gender, Legal Realism, behavioralism, institutional economics, criminal justice

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.