Welfare Works: Explaining Female Legislative Representation
36 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2008
Date Written: 2006
This paper aims to advance our understanding of why women are underrepresented in legislatures around the world, and what accounts for the wide variation over time and across countries. Scholars generally agree on many of the favorable conditions for women to enter parliament, including, inter alia, proportional representation, leftism in government, and female employment. However, the mechanisms that link women's seat shares to the supposed explanatory factors are still poorly understood. In this paper, we argue that the key link resides in welfare state policies that (1) free women to enter the paid workforce, (2) provide public sector jobs that disproportionately employ women, and (3) change the political interest of working women enough to create an ideological gender gap. This, in turn, creates incentives for parties to compete for the female vote, and one way that they do so is to include more and more women in their parliamentary delegations.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation