DP18333 Attacking Women or their Policies? Understanding Violence against Women in Politics
Surveys across countries indicate that female politicians are more often targets of violence compared to males. Why are women attacked more? Is this due to their gender, or to correlated factors? We provide the first causal evidence that violence is driven by gender: leveraging 12 years of data on attacks against Italian politicians, we show that marginally elected female mayors, similar in all respects to their male colleagues, are attacked three times more. We argue that violence can stem from two distinct sources: identity-based motives and divergent policymaking. Attacks concentrate where female empowerment in politics is highest, consistent with a misogynistic backlash hypothesis. Instead, there are no gender differences in expenditures and corruption, indicating that women’s policies do not motivate attacks. Violence can have pernicious consequences: female mayors are less likely to rerun for office after an attack, underscoring how violence may foster the persistence of the political gender gap.