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Published November 13, 2014 | Published
Journal Article Open

What's age got to do with it? Supreme Court appointees and the long run location of the Supreme Court median justice


For approximately the past forty years, Republican Presidents have appointed younger Justices than have Democratic Presidents. Depending on how one does the accounting, the average age difference will vary, but will not go away. This Article posits that Republicans appointing younger justices than Democrats may have caused a rightward shift in the Supreme Court. We use computer simulations to show that if the trend continues the rightward shift will likely increase. We also produce some very rough estimates of the size of the ideological shift, contingent on the size of the age differential. In addition, we show that the Senate's role in confirming nominated Justices has a significant moderating effect on the shift. Last, we consider the interaction between our results and the oft-proposed eighteen year staggered terms for Supreme Court Justices. We show that such an institutional change would almost completely wipe out the ideological effect of one Party appointing younger Justices.

Additional Information

© 2014 The Authors. Both authors express thanks to Michael Levine, Thomas Miles, John Yoo, and Micah Schwartzman, as well as the participants at conferences at the University of Chicago and at Northwestern University. Able research assistance was provided by Molly Slusher and Kris Teng. Formerly SSWP 1351.

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