Gender Gaps in Policy Making: Evidence from Direct Democracy in Switzerland

36 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2008 Last revised: 24 Nov 2010

See all articles by Patricia Funk

Patricia Funk

University of Lugano

Christina Gathmann

Alfred-Weber Institut; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 10, 2010


This paper exploits a natural experiment to investigate the consequences of women making politics at large scale. Our analysis focuses on Switzerland, the world leader in direct democracy, where all citizens can directly decide on a broad range of policies in referendums and initiatives. Exploiting surveys on individual voting behavior for all federal votes held between 1983 and 2003, we show that there are large gender gaps in the areas of health, environmental protection, defense spending and welfare policy which typically persist even conditional on socio-economic characteristics. We also find that female policy makers have a substantial effect on the composition of public spending, but a small effect on the overall size of government.

Keywords: Female Policy Makers, Political Gender Gaps, Switzerland

JEL Classification: H11, H31, H50, D72

Suggested Citation

Funk, Patricia and Gathmann, Christina, Gender Gaps in Policy Making: Evidence from Direct Democracy in Switzerland (November 10, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Patricia Funk

University of Lugano ( email )

Via Giuseppe Buffi 13
Lugano, Ticino 6900

Christina Gathmann (Contact Author)

Alfred-Weber Institut ( email )

Bergheimer Str. 20
Heidelberg, 69115

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072


CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679


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