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The Effect on Lawyers Income of Gender Information Contained in First Names

Coffey Bentley () and Patrick McLaughlin ()
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Coffey Bentley: Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, Durham, NC, USA

Review of Law & Economics, 2016, vol. 12, issue 1, 57-76

Abstract: We test the Portia Hypothesis – that a more masculine name improves a woman’s legal career – using primary data that we collected so that we can control for an arguably important, but previously omitted, confounding factor: the woman’s parents. In theory, a correlation between nominal masculinity and success may be due to a common cause: parents’ ability to advance their children’s career prospects and the more able parents having an irrelevant preference for masculine names. We control for the family’s wealth by using their child’s educational debt at the time of graduating from law school and for the family’s reputation, within the legal profession, by using the probability of being a lawyer conditional upon their last name. We find robust evidence that a more masculine name improves a woman’s earnings as a lawyer, even when we control for her parents’ wealth and reputation.

Date: 2016
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