Does Female Suffrage Increase Public Support for Government Spending? Evidence from Swiss Ballots
In this paper, I challenge the notion that women prefer larger governments than men which is why extending the franchise to women has led to an increase in government spending in many industrialized countries. I estimate the average treatment effect of being female on support for government spending, by analyzing the voting outcomes of two similar Swiss referendum votes concerning the federal government's authorization to levy income, capital and turnover taxes. The first ballot took place shortly before the extension of suffrage to women in February 1971, and the other one directly thereafter. Based on municipal voting data, I relate the increase in the electorate to the difference in acceptance rates for the two propositions. Surprisingly, I find that approval for government spending is higher among the male population. Further, I conduct a mediation analysis based on post-ballot surveys after comparable votes in 1981, 1991, and 1993. The intrinsic direct effect of being female proves to be the driving force behind the negative gender gap. In contrast, socioeconomic mediators like employment status or education turn out to play a weaker role.
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