Work and Power: The Connection between Female Labor Force Participation and Female Political Representation

Posted: 10 Jun 2008

See all articles by Torben Iversen

Torben Iversen

Harvard University

Frances McCall Rosenbluth

Yale University - Department of Political Science

Abstract

Low levels of female labor force participation contribute to female underrepresentation in democratic polities, both by reinforcing traditional voter attitudes toward women (a demand-side feature) and by constraining the supply of women with professional experience and resources who are capable of mounting credible electoral campaigns. Female labor force participation, however, is only part of the story. Comparative analysis suggests that electoral systems have a strong, systematic effect on the extent to which women's workforce participation boosts female political representation. In candidate-centered political systems, where seniority is an important factor in legislative effectiveness, career interruptions for the sake of childcare and other family work hurts female aspiring politicians more seriously than in proportional representation (PR) systems, where political parties control the policy platform and constituency service is a minor consideration in the careers of candidates. In countries with mixed electoral systems, women do better in seats elected by PR than by single-member plurality. Within countries, women are more likely to get elected to offices characterized by shorter tenure and higher average levels of turnover.

Keywords: personalistic and party-centered electoral systems, political labor markets

Suggested Citation

Iversen, Torben and Rosenbluth, Frances McCall, Work and Power: The Connection between Female Labor Force Participation and Female Political Representation. Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 11, June 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1141499

Torben Iversen (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

Institute for Quantitative Social Science
1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-384-5847 (Phone)
617-496-5149 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~iversen/index.htm

Frances McCall Rosenbluth

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, DC 06520-8269
United States
203-432-5256 (Phone)

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