The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect: Congresswomen and the Distribution of Federal Spending
Much of the literature on women in politics seeks to answer two questions: Why are there so few women in elective office? What do women in elective office do differently from men? We connect these two strands of the literature by showing that the process by which women are selected into office has important consequences for their performance once elected. We argue that when there is sex discrimination by voters, female candidates must be better than their male counterparts in order to get elected. Therefore, the women we observe in Congress should be of higher average quality than the men. We test this theory by examining congresswomen’s success in delivering federal spending to their home districts. We find that districts represented by women receive 12 to 19 percent more spending from federal discretionary programs than those represented by men. The female spending advantage cannot be explained by observable district or legislator characteristics. Finally, we use two natural experiments to produce evidence that the relationship between legislator sex and federal spending is causal and that legislator quality is the most likely explanation for it.
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