- The Oxford Handbooks of American Politics
- The Oxford Handbook of U.S. Judicial Behavior
- List of Figures
- List of Tables
- List of Abbreviations
- List of Contributors
- Appointing Federal Judges
- Appointing Supreme Court Justices
- Judicial Elections: Judges and their “New-Style” Constituencies
- Federal Judicial Tenure
- Law Clerks
- Gatekeeping and Filtering in Trial Courts
- Access to Intermediate Appellate Courts
- Agenda-Setting on the U.S. Supreme Court
- Courtroom Proceedings in U.S. Federal Courts
- Opinion Writing
- Vertical <i>Stare Decisis</i>
- Law in Judicial Decision-Making
- The Strategic Analysis of Judicial Behavior and the Separation of Powers
- Judicial Review
- The Role of Personal Attributes and Social Backgrounds on Judging
- Ideology and Partisanship
- The Economic Analysis of Judicial Behavior
- Judges and their Audiences
- Interest Groups and the Judiciary
- The Relationship between Courts and Legislatures
- Courts and Executives
- Covering the Courts
- The Supreme Court and Public Opinion
- Judicial Impact
- Cognition in the Courts: Analyzing the Use of Experiments to Study Legal Decision-Making
- New Measurement Technologies: A Review and Application to Nuremberg and Justice Jackson
- The Use of Observational Data to Study Law and the Judiciary
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.
Tracey E. George is the Charles B. Cox III and Lucy D. Cox Family Chair in Law and Liberty at Vanderbilt University.
Taylor Grace Weaver is a 2014 J.D. Graduate of Vanderbilt University.
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