DP18013 Maternal Mortality and Women's Political Voice: Historical Evidence from the U.S.
We show that large declines in maternal mortality can be achieved by raising women’s political voice. Using an event study approach, we show that the arrival of first antibiotics (sulfa drugs) in the U.S. in 1937, which were effective in treating peripartum bacterial infections, led to larger reductions in maternal mortality in states that extended suffrage to women prior to the 19th Constitutional Amendment of 1920, a national mandate that extended the franchise to all women. These findings suggest important complementarities between women's voice in politics and health-improving technologies. In terms of mechanisms, we argue that earlier suffrage and the longer history of women's political participation arising from it may have laid the groundwork for greater acceptability and quicker uptake of technologies that improved women's health. We also show that earlier suffrage led to a higher likelihood of women holding Senate seats, consistent with a channel where suffrage shaped policymaking through women leaders.