The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect: Why Do Congresswomen Outperform Congressmen?

47 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2007 Last revised: 9 Sep 2009

Sarah F. Anzia

University of California, Berkeley

Christopher R. Berry

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies

Date Written: August 5, 2009

Abstract

We argue that the process of selection into political office is different for women than it is for men, which results in important differences in the performance of male and female legislators once they are elected. If voters are biased against female candidates, only the most talented, hardest working female candidates will succeed in the electoral process. Furthermore, if women perceive there to be sex discrimination in the electoral process, or if they underestimate their qualifications for office relative to men, then only the most qualified, politically ambitious females will emerge as candidates. We argue that when either or both forms of sex-based selection are present, the women who are elected to office will perform better, on average, than their male counterparts. We test this central implication of the theory by using legislators’ success in delivering federal spending to their home districts as our primary measure of performance. We find that congresswomen secure roughly 9 percent more spending from federal discretionary programs than congressmen. This amounts to a premium of about $49 million per year for districts that send a woman to Capitol Hill. Finally, we find that women’s superiority in securing particularistic benefits does not hurt their performance in policymaking: women also sponsor more bills and obtain more cosponsorship support for their legislative initiatives than their male colleagues.

Keywords: congress, spending, women

JEL Classification: H5

Suggested Citation

Anzia, Sarah F. and Berry, Christopher R., The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect: Why Do Congresswomen Outperform Congressmen? (August 5, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1013443 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1013443

Sarah F. Anzia

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

2607 Hearst Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Christopher R. Berry (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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