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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. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Jonathan Guryan, 2007. "Prejudice and The Economics of Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 13661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Esther Duflo & Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, 2004. "Women as policy makers: Evidence from a randomized policy experiment in india," Framed Field Experiments 00224, The Field Experiments Website.
  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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  10. Cecilia Rouse & Claudia Goldin, 2000. "Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of "Blind" Auditions on Female Musicians," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 715-741, September.
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  12. Dennis J. Aigner & Glen G. Cain, 1977. "Statistical theories of discrimination in labor markets," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 30(2), pages 175-187, January.
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