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

33 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2009

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 15, 2008


In spite of increasing representation of women in politics, little is known about their impact on policies. Comparing outcomes of parliaments with different shares of female members does not identify their causal impact because of possible differences in the underlying electorate. This paper uses a unique data set on voting decisions to sheds new light on gender gaps in policy making. Our analysis focuses on Switzerland, where all citizens can directly decide on a broad range of policies in referendums and initiatives. 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: H10, J16

Suggested Citation

Funk, Patricia and Gathmann, Christina, Gender Gaps in Policy Making: Evidence from Direct Democracy in Switzerland (November 15, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Patricia Funk (Contact Author)

University of Lugano ( email )

Via Giuseppe Buffi 13
Lugano, Ticino 6900

Christina Gathmann

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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