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Women’s representation in politics: voter bias, party bias, and electoral systems

Martin Gonzalez-Eiras () and Carlos Sanz

No 1834, Working Papers from Banco de España, Working Papers Homepage

Abstract: We study how electoral systems affect the presence of women in politics using a model in which both voters and parties might have a gender bias. We apply the model to Spanish municipal elections, in which national law mandates that municipalities follow one of two different electoral systems: a closed-list system in which voters pick one party-list, or an open-list system, in which voters pick individual candidates. Using a regression discontinuity design, we find that the closed-list system increases the share of women among candidates and councilors by 2.5 percentage points, and the share of women among mayors by 4.3 percentage points. Our model explains these results as mostly driven by voter bias against women. We provide evidence that supports the mechanism of the model. In particular, we show that, when two councilors almost tied in general-election votes, the one with “one more vote” is substantially more likely to be appointed mayor, but this does not happen when the most voted was female and the second was male, suggesting the presence of some voter bias. We also show that, in a subsample of municipalities with low bias — proxied by having had a female mayor in the past — the difference between the two electoral systems disappears.

Keywords: voting; electoral systems; gender bias; regression discontinuity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 J16 J71 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-gen and nep-pol
Date: 2018-10
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