Does Election of an Additional Female Councilor Increase Women's Candidacy in the Future?

Author:Kuliomina, Jekaterina
Position::Column
 
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  1. Introduction

    Female political participation is a topic that draws a substantial amount Of attention from international organizations and society worldwide. (1) Debates about female underrepresentation have also spread to various levels of governance: from the local all the way to the national. Gender parity in political institutions is viewed as an important goal, since it is a way to account for women's preferences that may be different from men (Campbell et al 2010, Swers 2002, Wangnerud 2000). In addition, women can be better representatives than men (Anzia & Berry 2011). Meanwhile we observe an underrepresentation of women in political institutions, not only in developing, but also in developed countries. Various ways to increase female representation, such as gender quotas (Campa 2011, Esteve-Volart & Bagues 2012) and exposure of potential female politicians to a role model, i.e. an existing female politician (Bhalotra et al 2013, Broockman 2014, Gilardi 2015), are analysed in the literature. (2) It would be useful for policy makers to know whether the process of increasing female participation only needs to be stimulated in the beginning and not for longer. At this point it remains unclear whether a marginal increase in the number of female politicians can stimulate a spillover.

    In this paper I analyse Czech local elections data and show that increasing the pool of incumbent women via a competitive election may have an opposite effect than expected, i.e. lead to fewer female candidates on slates in the next elections. Since the outcomes of the elections could potentially be endogenous to the municipality characteristics (Smith et al 2012), I employ a Regression Discontinuity Design (RDD). I compare the municipalities where the marginally elected councilor is a female who placed just ahead of a male candidate to the municipalities where the situation was the opposite.

    The question of what influences female political participation has been studied in the literature from different angles. On the local level, Beaman et al (2009) and Eggers (2011) analyse the effect of electing a female mayor and De Paola et al (2010) examine how gender quota affected female representation after it was abolished. Bhalotra et al (2013) and Broockman (2014) concentrate on the state level. To the best of my knowledge, only one paper (Gilardi 2015) has so far employed the combination of the three design features that are characteristic of this paper: 1) the influence of a council seat holder rather than a mayor; 2) local political level rather than state; 3) competitive election of a female candidate rather than quota-induced. Gilardi (2015) studies both municipalities and competitive election of female council members. The setting is, however, not ordinary--Switzerland of the time when women were first allowed to participate in elections in 1969. (3) In addition, the paper is rather descriptive than causal since the identification strategy is not based on a random election of candidates. It is common in the literature to use RDD that takes into account the victory margin between the elected and unelected candidates in order to avoid endogeneity (Bhalotra et al 2013, Brollo & Troiano 2013, Broockman 2014, Clots-Figueras 2011, Eggers 2011, Ferreira & Gyourko 2014).

    Analysing how the gender of a local council member influences other women Is an important extension to the literature that already documents the influence of female mayors and state legislators. First, though less noticeable than a mayor, a council member participates in the decision-making and is among community leaders too. Second, the decision to participate in the elections on the local level is the first a potential politician takes in his/her career that can lead to becoming a mayor; the municipal level is also likely to be the first step for those who want to be involved in politics on the higher regional or state levels. Third, from the regulatory prospective, the gender of a council seat holder is relatively easy to regulate. It is, therefore, useful to study this angle to see the full picture of how female political participation is shaped.

    Gender quotas introduce a large, policy-induced variation in the number Of women, either on slates or among council members, and are therefore popular among researchers addressing a variety of questions (Baltrunaite et al 2014, Beaman et al 2009, Bhavnani 2009, Campa 2011, Chattopadhyay & Duflo 2004, Chen 2010, De Paola et al 2010, Deininger et al 2015, Eggers 2011, Weeks & Baldez 2015). Quotas, however, might also have a negative effect on attitudes of the electorate, since the latter have to choose from among a pool of candidates which is possibly not natural for them (Clayton 2015). Competitive election of women does not face this particular issue. It might be problematic due to possible unobservable women-friendliness inside a particular municipality. Since I apply the RDD and estimate the model on a narrow margin this concern is irrelevant.

    Comparing the municipalities of interest on the narrowest margin, I find that exposure of a municipality to an additional woman in local council has a negative effect on political participation of new female candidates (4) in the next elections. In those municipalities we observe fewer new female candidates on slates (5). The participation rate of new female candidates drops by at least 3 percentage points. (6) Meanwhile, both the likelihood of an incumbent female politician participating in elections again and the likelihood of winning conditional on participation are higher than for a female candidate who ran in elections and did not get elected (in line with Trounstine 2011 and Redmond & Regan 2015).

    The negative effect on the number of new female candidates is mainly driven by the municipalities, where the number of other female candidates elected besides the marginally elected one was 2 or more. The latter finding serves as a piece of evidence that the main negative effect can be explained by the sufficiency of female representation in municipal councils.

    My findings add a new insight to the existing literature. Electing a female mayor has a positive long-term effect on female political participation in India on the local level (Beaman et al 2009), as well as electing an additional female legislator on the state level (Bhalotra et al 2013). No effect was documented for France on the local level (Eggers 2011) and US on the state level (Broockman 2014). A positive effect was found in Italy (De Paola et al 2010) and in Switzerland when women were first allowed to participate in elections in 1969 (Gilardi 2015). I explain the difference between my results and those in the literature with the contrasting female political participation level that is rather high in the Czech Republic and significantly lower in India, Italy and Switzerland in the 1970s. (7) I show that electing additional women might not always have a positive effect on female political participation, especially in the setting where women take a significant part in politics.

    In my setting I do not find evidence for the extensively discussed "demonstration effect" (Bhalotra et al 2013, Broockman 2014, Eggers 2011, Gilardi 2015, Campbell & Wolbrecht 2006, Wolbrecht & Campbell 2007), whereby observing women involved in politics might inspire other women to participate in elections too. Though the possibility of a role model seems natural, to date it is only proven to affect the intentions of other women to participate in politics (Campbell & Wolbrecht 2006, Wolbrecht & Campbell 2007) or aspirations of adolescents (Beaman et al 2012) and, only in one case, actual participation (Gilardi 2015). With fewer female candidates on slates after a municipality was exposed to more female councilors I find no evidence in support of role model influence of elected female politicians on other women.

    I also show that my results are not driven by the political affiliation of the marginally elected councilors. Multiple studies find that political parties influence policy outcomes (Pettersson-Lidbom 2008, Joshi 2015, Migueis 2013, Freier & Odendahl 2012). In the gender-related literature, a conclusion as to whether the partisanship of female politicians matters has not been reached. Women seem to influence women from the same party (Reingold & Harrell 2010), and in the eyes of the electorate partisanship matters more than gender (Hayes 2011), but the political outcomes of female politicians are not affected by their partisanship (Ferreira & Gyourko 2014). In this paper I can only respond to the question of whether it matters that the female councilor is representing a major party or a local movement. I find that representing a major party, with its clear political ideology, rather than a local movement concentrated on running the municipality efficiently, does not matter.

    Since gender quotas continue to affect female political participation after they are abolished (De Paola et al 2010, Bhavnani 2009) I check whether electing an additional female councilor has a long-term effect too. I do not observe a statistically significant influence of an additionally elected female candidate on female political participation two elections ahead, possibly due to small sample size.

    My findings hold for the municipalities where the competition for the last seat was narrow. Also, the municipalities where the two marginal candidates are of different gender have higher number of female candidates on slates than the municipalities where the two marginal candidates are of the same gender. The fact that the results apply to the municipalities with higher competition among women unfortunately limit the external validity of the paper.

    The paper proceeds as follows. I first describe the election process in the Czech Republic in the Institutional background section. I then comment on my empirical strategy (Section 3). The data description...

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