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Does Gender Matter for Political Leadership? The Case of U.S. Mayors

  • Fernando Ferreira
  • Joseph Gyourko

What are the consequences of electing a female leader for policy and political outcomes? We answer this question in the context of U.S. cities, where women's participation in mayoral elections increased from negligible numbers in 1970 to about one-third of the elections in the 2000's. We use a novel data set of U.S. mayoral elections from 1950 to 2005, and apply a regression discontinuity design to deal with the endogeneity of female candidacy to city characteristics. In contrast to most research on the influence of female leadership, we find no effect of gender of the mayor on policy outcomes related to the size of local government, the composition of municipal spending and employment, or crime rates. While female mayors do not implement different policies, they do appear to have higher unobserved political skills, as they have a 6-7 percentage point higher incumbent effect than a comparable male. But we find no evidence of political spillovers: exogenously electing a female mayor does not change the long run political success of other female mayoral candidates in the same city or of female candidates in local congressional elections.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17671.

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Date of creation: Dec 2011
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Publication status: published as “Does Gender Matter for Political Leadership? The Case of U.S. Mayors”, with Joseph Gyourko. Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17671
Note: LS PE POL
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. M. Daniele Paserman & Stefano Gagliarducci, 2011. "Gender Interactions within Hierarchies: Evidence from the Political Arena," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2011-048, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  2. Fernando Ferreira & Joseph Gyourko, 2007. "Do Political Parties Matter? Evidence from U.S. Cities," NBER Working Papers 13535, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Imbens, Guido W. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2008. "Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 615-635, February.
  4. Beaman, Lori & Chattopadhyay, Raghabendra & Duflo, Esther & Pande, Rohini & Topalova, Petia, 2008. "Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?," CEPR Discussion Papers 6922, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Lee, David S., 2008. "Randomized experiments from non-random selection in U.S. House elections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 675-697, February.
  6. Irma Clots-Figueras, 2012. "Are Female Leaders Good for Education? Evidence from India," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 212-44, January.
  7. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  8. Edward L. Glaeser & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2004. "Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2044, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  9. 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, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 917-961, August.
  10. David S. Lee, 2001. "The Electoral Advantage to Incumbency and Voters' Valuation of Politicians' Experience: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis of Elections to the U.S..," NBER Working Papers 8441, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Tiago V. De V. Cavalcanti & José Tavares, 2011. "Women Prefer Larger Governments: Growth, Structural Transformation, And Government Size," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 49(1), pages 155-171, 01.
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