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Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?

  • Beaman, Lori

    (University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern University)

  • Chattopadhyay, Raghebendra

    (Indian Institute of Management)

  • Duflo, Esther

    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

  • Pande, Rohini

    (Harvard U)

  • Topalova, Petia

    (International Monetary Fund)

We exploit random assignment of gender quotas across Indian village councils to investigate whether having a female chief councillor affects public opinion towards female leaders. Villagers who have never been required to have a female leader prefer male leaders and perceive hypothetical female leaders as less effective than their male counterparts, when stated performance is identical. Exposure to a female leader does not alter villagers' taste preference for male leaders. However, it weakens stereotypes about gender roles in the public and domestic spheres and eliminates the negative bias in how female leaders' effectiveness is perceived among male villagers. Female villagers exhibit less prior bias, but are also less likely to know about or participate in local politics; as a result, their attitudes are largely unaffected. Consistent with our experimental findings, villagers rate their women leaders as less effective when exposed to them for the first, but not second, time. These changes in attitude are electorally meaningful: after 10 years of the quota policy, women are more likely to stand for and win free seats in villages that have been continuously required to have a female chief councillor.

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Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp08-037.

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Date of creation: Jul 2008
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp08-037
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  1. FRECHETTE, Guillaume R. & MANIQUET, François & MORELLI, Massimo, 2006. "Incumbents’ interests, voters’ bias and gender quotas," CORE Discussion Papers 2006083, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
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  4. Raghabendra Chattopadhyay & Esther Duflo, 2004. "Women as Policy Makers: Evidence from a Randomized Policy Experiment in India," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1409-1443, 09.
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  8. Kaivan Munshi & Mark Rosenzweig, 2008. "The Efficacy of Parochial Politics: Caste, Commitment, and Competence in Indian Local Governments," Working Papers 964, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
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  12. Timothy Besley & Rohini Pande & Vijayendra Rao, 2007. "Just rewards? Local politics and public resource allocation in South India," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3763, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  13. Coate, Stephen & Loury, Glenn C, 1993. "Will Affirmative-Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1220-40, December.
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  16. Dan-Olof Rooth, 2007. "Implicit Discrimination in Hiring – Real World Evidence," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0705, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
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