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Gender gaps in policy making: Evidence from direct democracy in Switzerland

In spite of increasing representation of women in politics, little is known about their impact on policies. Comparing outcomes of parliaments with different shares of female members does not identify their causal impact because of possible differences in the underlying electorate. This paper uses a unique data set on voting decisions to sheds new light on gender gaps in policy making. Our analysis focuses on Switzerland, where all citizens can directly decide on a broad range of policies in referendums and initiatives. We show that there are large gender gaps in the areas of health, environmental protection, defense spending and welfare policy which typically persist even conditional on socio-economic characteristics. We also find that female policy makers have a substantial effect on the composition of public spending, but a small effect on the overall size of government.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1126.

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Date of creation: Nov 2008
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Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1126
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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  1. Adams, Ren馥 B. & Ferreira, Daniel, 2008. "Women in the Boardroom and Their Impact on Governance and Performance," CEI Working Paper Series 2008-7, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  2. Matsusaka, John G & McCarty, Nolan M, 2001. "Political Resource Allocation: Benefits and Costs of Voter Initiatives," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 413-48, October.
  3. Alois Stutzer & Lukas Kienast, 2004. "Demokratische Beteiligung und Staatsausgaben: Die Auswirkungen des Frauenstimmrechts," CREMA Working Paper Series 2004-26, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  4. Clots-Figueras, Irma, 2011. "Women in politics: Evidence from the Indian States," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 664-690, August.
  5. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2001. "Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1936, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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  7. Edlund, Lena Cecilia & Haider, Laila & Pande, Rohini, 2004. "Unmarried Parenthood and Redistributive Politics," CEPR Discussion Papers 4478, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. 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.
  9. Fong, Christina, 2001. "Social preferences, self-interest, and the demand for redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 225-246, November.
  10. 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.
  11. Irma Clots-Figueras, 2007. "Are female leaders good for education? : Evidence from India," Economics Working Papers we077342, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Economía.
  12. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
  13. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101, 08.
  14. Grant Miller, 2008. "Women's Suffrage, Political Responsiveness, and Child Survival in American History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(3), pages 1287-1327, August.
  15. 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.
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