Discussion paper

DP14339 Maternal Mortality and Women's Political Participation

Millions of women continue to die during and soon after childbirth, even where the knowledge and resources to avoid this are available. We posit that raising the share of women in parliament can trigger action. Leveraging the timing of gender quota legislation across developing countries, we identify sharp sustained reductions of 8-10 percent in maternal mortality. Investigating mechanisms, we find that gender quotas lead to increases in percentage points of 5-8 in skilled birth attendance and 4-8 in prenatal care utilization, alongside a decline in fertility of 6-7 percent and an increase in the schooling of young women of about 0.5 years. The results are robust to numerous robustness checks. They suggest a new policy tool for tackling maternal mortality.


Bhalotra, S, D Clarke, J Gomes and A Venkataramani (2020), ‘DP14339 Maternal Mortality and Women's Political Participation‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14339. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14339