Discussion paper

DP13238 Electoral Competition, Voter Bias and Women in Politics

We quantify the implications of voter bias and electoral competition for politicians' gender composition. Unfavorable voters' attitudes towards women and local gender earnings gap correlate negatively with the share of female candidates in Parliamentary elections. Using within-candidate variation across the different polling stations of an electoral district in a given election year, we find that female candidates obtain fewer votes in municipalities with higher gender earnings gaps. We show theoretically that when voters are biased against women, parties facing gender quotas select male candidates in the most contestable districts. We find empirical support for such a strategic party response to voter gender bias. Simulating our calibrated model confirms that competition significantly hinders the effectiveness of gender quotas.


Le Barbanchon, T and J Sauvagnat (2018), ‘DP13238 Electoral Competition, Voter Bias and Women in Politics‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 13238. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp13238