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Do Electoral Rules Matter for Female Representation?

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  • Paola Profeta
  • Eleanor Woodhouse

Abstract

How do electoral rules affect the representation of women? We collect panel data on the universe of Italian politicians from all levels of government over the period 1987-2013 and obtain a complete picture of the career paths of male and female politicians across the whole arc of their careers in public office. We use our unique dataset to analyse the effects on female political representation of an Italian reform which, in 2005, changed the electoral rule for national elections from (mostly) majoritarian to proportional, but did not affect sub-national level elections. We find that proportional electoral rules favour the election of women. We propose a new channel through which this result is obtained, related to the different nature of political competition in the two electoral systems: under proportional rules, parties place women less frequently in competitive seats. This is consistent with the fact that proportional systems value gender diversity more than majoritarian ones, while majoritarian systems rely on head-to-head electoral races, which are not gender neutral. We also find that electoral rules have weaker effects on female representation in geographical areas where traditional gender roles are dominant.

Suggested Citation

  • Paola Profeta & Eleanor Woodhouse, 2018. "Do Electoral Rules Matter for Female Representation?," Working Papers 121, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
  • Handle: RePEc:don:donwpa:121
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    Cited by:

    1. Kantorowicz, Jarosław & Köppl-Turyna, Monika, 2020. "Electoral systems and female representation in politics: Evidence from a regression discontinuity," Working Papers 20, Agenda Austria.
    2. Hessami, Zohal & da Fonseca, Mariana Lopes, 2020. "Female political representation and substantive effects on policies: A literature review," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C).
    3. Alessandra Casarico & Paola Profeta, 2020. "Introduction Special Issue “On Gender Perspectives in Public Economics”," Hacienda Pública Española / Review of Public Economics, IEF, vol. 235(4), pages 3-10, December.
    4. Thushyanthan Baskaran & Zohal Hessami, 2019. "Competitively Elected Women as Policy Makers," CESifo Working Paper Series 8005, CESifo.
    5. Casarico, Alessandra & Lattanzio, Salvatore & Profeta, Paola, 2022. "Women and local public finance," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 72(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Electoral reforms; Majoritarian; Proportional; Electoral Competition; Political Selection; Difference-in-Differences;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General

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