Incumbents' Interests and Gender Quotas

39 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2008

See all articles by Guillaume R. Fréchette

Guillaume R. Fréchette

New York University (NYU) - Department of Economics

Francois Maniquet

Catholic University of Louvain (UCL)

Massimo Morelli

Bocconi University

Date Written: September 17, 2007


The adoption of mandatory gender quotas in party lists has been a subject of discussion in many countries. Since any reform obviously requires the approval of a (sometimes qualified) majority of incumbent legislators' votes, keeping an eye on incumbents' interests and incentives in different systems seems a natural thing to do if we want to understand different prospects for reforms in different countries. Such differences in the cost-benefit analysis of incumbents may well depend on the electoral system. We argue that if male candidates have a higher probability of being elected when running against a female candidate than when running against a male of similar characteristics (male advantage), then single member district majority rule and closed list proportional representation are opposite extremes in terms of incentives for incumbents to pass parity laws. We validate the above argument using a formal model of constitutional design as well as an empirical analysis of the legislative elections in France, since France offers a natural experiment for both electoral systems. Given the male advantage, increasing the number of female new candidates made the incumbents' probability of reelection higher and thus male incumbent members of the Assembly have actually benefited from the parity law. We also show that parity may have Assembly composition effects and policy effects that vary with the electoral system.

Suggested Citation

Fréchette, Guillaume R. and Maniquet, Francois and Morelli, Massimo, Incumbents' Interests and Gender Quotas (September 17, 2007). Available at SSRN: or

Guillaume R. Fréchette (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Department of Economics ( email )

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New York, NY 10012
United States

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Francois Maniquet

Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) ( email )

Place Montesquieu, 3
Louvain-la-Neuve, 1348

Massimo Morelli

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, 20136

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