Can gender quotas break down negative stereotypes? Evidence from changes in electoral rules
In this paper, we analyze the effect of gender quotas on women's involvement in political activity by using a rich data set providing information on all Italian local administrators who were elected from 1985 to 2007. Gender quotas were introduced by law in Italy in 1993 and were in force until 1995. Because of the short period covered by the reform, some municipalities never voted under the gender quota regime. This allows us to identify a treatment and a control group and to estimate the effects of gender quotas by using a difference-in-differences estimation strategy. Our estimates show that women's representation in politics after the reform increased significantly more in municipalities that were affected by the reform than in municipalities that were not affected. This result also holds true if we exclude from our analysis elections which took place during the period in which the reform was in force. Moreover, the higher women's representation in "gender quota municipalities" is not related to the advantages that women who were elected during the reform have obtained from incumbency and does not seem to be driven by differences in temporal trends between Southern and Northern regions. These findings suggest that affirmative actions can be of use in breaking down stereotypes against women.
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