Discussion paper

DP7917 The Good, the Bad, and the Different: Can Gender Quotas Raise the Quality of Politicians?

This paper models, for the first time, the relationship between gender quotas and the quality of elected public officials. In our economy, females and males can be either high or low-skill. The number of high-skill individuals elected for public office determines the overall quality of politicians. Women suffer from gender discrimination in the labor market and in the political market, and are underrepresented in elected political bodies in the status quo. Introducing a quota increases the probability of election for women and decreases it for men. The impact of the quota on quality depends on the skills of those individuals from the discriminated (over-represented) group that are encouraged (discouraged) to run for office. We demonstrate that a higher gender quota only decreases the overall quality of those elected when the rewards from public oce are low, or when the rewards from pubic office are high but women are significantly discriminated against in the political market versus the labor market. In other cases, a quota either decreases quality only initially, but for sufficiently high values there is a positive effect on quality, or leads to immediate increases in quality. Our model also formalizes the role that policies fighting discrimination may have on the number and type of women elected.


Tavares, J and P Júlio (2010), ‘DP7917 The Good, the Bad, and the Different: Can Gender Quotas Raise the Quality of Politicians?‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 7917. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp7917