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Gender gaps in policy making: evidence from direct democracy in Switzerland

Patricia Funk and Christina Gathmann ()

Economic Policy, 2015, vol. 30, issue 81, 141-181

Abstract: This paper uses a unique data set on individual voting decisions to shed new light on gender gaps in policy making. Our analysis focuses on Switzerland, the world leader in direct democracy, where all citizens directly decide on a broad range of policies at the ballot box. Analysing all federal votes held between 1981 and 2003, we show that there are large gender gaps in the areas of health, environmental protection, defence spending and welfare policy. The gender gaps typically persist even conditional on socio-economic characteristics. We also find that female policy-makers have a substantial effect on the composition of public spending, but a small effect on the overall size of government.

Date: 2015
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