Gender Gaps in Policy Making: Evidence from Direct Democracy in Switzerland
22 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2009
Date Written: August 20, 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
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