Women and Politics

Women and Power: Unpopular, Unwilling or Held Back?
We delineate three mechanisms that could explain women's under-representation in electoral lists and political power: voter demand, candidate supply, and internal party dynamics. We use Spain's Equality Law, which mandates a 40 percent female quota on electoral lists, to test these alternative theories. The law was enacted by the Social-Democratic Party after the surprise parliamentary electoral results following the Madrid terrorist bombings in 2004. It was therefore completely unexpected by local political organizations. The quota only applied to towns with populations above 5,000 and forced heterogeneous growth in the number of female candidates by party. Using pre- and post-quota data by party and municipality, we implement a triple-dierence design and nd that female quotas resulted in slightly better electoral results for the parties that started out with fewer women, and hence were most affected by the quota. Our evidence is not consistent with the existence of pro-male voter preferences, or with the hypothesis that the best female candidates eectively available to the parties displayed poor quality as politicians.
Town Meetings: Participatory Government and Women in Politics
The unique New England institution of Town Meeting government attracts very little academic attention; however, it is a rich source of information that can contribute to our understanding of participatory government. Further, it provides a new environment to test a variety of existing hypotheses regarding the political economy of municipalities. Given the potential of this data source, the lab is engaged in two projects related to Town Meetings. The first project is a case study of six town meetings that took place this past spring. Survey data from meeting participants are compared to the socio-economic characteristics of the towns. This comparison uncovers the demographics of the decision makers in a municipality and begins the discussion of who goes to town meetings, why do they go to town meetings, and what is the potential impact town meeting outcomes. There are many competing theories that attempt to explain why the number of women in politics continues to remain low. The second project seeks to add to this dialogue by analyzing female participation in different forms of municipal government. In particular, this project compares the number of women holding municipal office in representative governments versus town meeting governments.