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Men, Women, and the Ballot Woman Suffrage in the United States

  • Sebastian Braun
  • Michael Kvasnicka

Woman suffrage led to the greatest enfranchisement in the history of the United States. Before World War I, however, suffrage states remained almost exclusively confined to the American West. The reasons for this pioneering role of the West are still unclear. Studying the timing of woman suffrage adoption at state level, we find that states in which women were scarce (the West) enfranchised their women much earlier than states in which the sex ratio was more balanced (the rest of the country). High sex ratios in the West, that is high ratios of grantors to grantees, reduced the political costs and risks to male electorates and legislators of extending the franchise. They are also likely to have enhanced female bargaining power and may have made woman suffrage more attractive in the eyes of western legislators that sought to attract more women to their states. Our finding of a reduced-form inverse relationship between the relative size of a group and its success in securing the ballot may be of use also for the study of other franchise extensions and for inquieries into the dynamics of political power sharing more generally.

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Paper provided by Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany in its series SFB 649 Discussion Papers with number SFB649DP2009-016.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hum:wpaper:sfb649dp2009-016
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  1. Josh Angrist, 2002. "How Do Sex Ratios Affect Marriage and Labor Markets? Evidence from America's Second Generation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 997-1038.
  2. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Why Did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, and Growth in Historical Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1167-1199.
  3. Daron Acemoglu & David H. Autor & David Lyle, 2002. "Women, War and Wages: The Effect of Female Labor Supply on the Wage Structure at Mid-Century," NBER Working Papers 9013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Lena Edlund & Rohini Pande, 2002. "Why Have Women Become Left-Wing? The Political Gender Gap and the Decline in Marriage," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 917-961.
  5. Grant Miller, 2008. "Women's Suffrage, Political Responsiveness, and Child Survival in American History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(3), pages 1287-1327.
  6. George J. Stigler, 1971. "The Theory of Economic Regulation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 2(1), pages 3-21, Spring.
  7. John R. Lott & Jr. & Lawrence W. Kenny, 1999. "Did Women's Suffrage Change the Size and Scope of Government?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(6), pages 1163-1198, December.
  8. Aidt, T.S. & Dutta, Jayasri & Loukoianova, Elena, 2006. "Democracy comes to Europe: Franchise extension and fiscal outcomes 1830-1938," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 249-283, February.
  9. Jenkins, Stephen P, 1995. "Easy Estimation Methods for Discrete-Time Duration Models," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 57(1), pages 129-38, February.
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