DP13238 | Voter Bias and Women in Politics

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We study and quantify the implications of voter bias and electoral competition for the gender composition of politicians. We show that unfavorable voters' attitudes towards women and local gender earnings gaps correlate negatively with the share of female candidates in both French Parliamentary elections, and across countries. Using within-candidate variation only, we also find that female candidates in French elections obtain lower vote shares in municipalities with higher gender earnings gaps. We then propose a model of political selection with voter bias. We show theoretically that when voters are biased against women, political parties facing gender quotas tend to select male candidates in the most contestable districts. We take this test to the data using the introduction of gender quotas in France, and find strong support for the existence of a voter bias in favor of male candidates. Finally, we calibrate our model and confirm in simulations that electoral competition significantly hinders the effectiveness of gender quotas in boosting women's presence in politics.