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Universitat de Barcelona & IBEI

Automation risk and political preferences before and after the pandemic

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Do historical experiences explain why women are underrepresented in politics? If so, can historical legacies be remedied within a lifespan? We address both questions by studying the effect of distinct cultural heritages created by two prototypical historical family types\textemdash nuclear and stem\textemdash on women’s representation in local councils in Spain from 1979 to 2015. Although prototypical family types disappeared in the mid-twentieth century, the political representation of women after democratization was significantly lower in nuclear than in stem family regions, reflecting centuries of socialization in conservative gender norms. Differences in women political representation between regions mostly disappeared after 1990s. We examine three possible explanations: changes in labor market outcomes, changes in societal gender attitudes, and adoption of voluntary gender quotas. Our data are consistent with the latter mechanism: The top-down introduction of voluntary quotas in the late 1980s balanced-off the negative cultural legacy in nuclear region municipalities. We discuss the implications of our findings for theories of cultural persistence and speculate about the role of feminist groups as "cultural entrepeneurs’’ responsible for the rapid diffusion of gender parity norms and institutional change.


Aina Gallego is a political scientist working in the areas of political behavior and political economy. She is an Associate Professor at the Universitat de Barcelona and a research associate at the Barcelona Institute for International Studies and the Institute for Political Economy and Governance. In the last years she has worked primarily the political consequences of automation and digitalization on the selection of political elites.