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Women in Politics and Policy Choices

Jun. Prof. Dr. Zohal Hessami


The representation of women in politics has increased across the globe over the last few decades. Accordingly, interest in whether  this rise in female representation is merely symbolic or whether it  has substantive implications for policy has grown as well. We investigate this question for the legislative branch of government using unique hand-collected data on some 300,000 candidates for open-list local councils elections in Germany. To identify a causal effect, we use the fact that in our open-list setting, the gender of the candidate who wins a mixed-gender election for the last council seat that accrues to a party is quasi-random. Our results indicate that councils with more women invest more in ``pro-female'' policies, notably publicly provided child care facilities, confirming that female representation has substantive implications for policy choices. We also find that these policy choices have broader economic effects. In particular, municipalities with a higher share of women in the council witness stronger female employment growth. Exploring mechanisms, we find no evidence that partisan concerns or changes in the relationship between the council and (male) mayors are responsible for these effects. Accordingly, it appears that a higher female representation in the council implies that womens' concerns receive more weight in council deliberations.


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