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Electoral Rules, Women’s Representation and the Quality of Politicians

Number: 121
Year: 2019
Author(s): Paola Profeta, Eleanor Woodhouse.
Keywords: Electoral reforms,Majoritarian,Proportional,Electoral Competition,Political Selection,Difference-in-Differences.
Proportional electoral rules favour the election of women with respect to majoritarian ones. This is consistent with the fact that in majoritarian systems personal exposure of the candidate is more relevant than in proportional systems and that women tend to be averse to such exposure. To test the effects of electoral rules on women’s representation and the quality of politicians, we collect panel data on the universe of Italian politicians from all levels of government over the period 1987-2013 and analyse an Italian reform which, in 2005, changed the electoral rule for national elections from (mostly) majoritarian to proportional, but did not affect subnational level elections. We find that this reform increased the number of women elected, while not decreasing the quality of politicians. We provide evidence of a negative selection effect under proportional rules: the elected women are not the best candidates and the quality of elected politicians could have increased (rather than remain constant) if the best female candidates had been elected. Our results are stronger in gender traditional regions, suggesting that culture matters in terms of how electoral rules affect female political representation.

Paola Profeta Bocconi University, Milan, Italy
Eleanor Woodhouse Bocconi University, Milan, Italy


Language: English

The paper may be downloaded here.