The Ties that Double Bind: Social Roles and Women's Underrepresentation in Politics

67 Pages Posted: 22 May 2017 Last revised: 26 Feb 2019

See all articles by Dawn Teele

Dawn Teele

University of Pennsylvania

Joshua Kalla

University of California, Berkeley

Frances McCall Rosenbluth

Yale University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: May 21, 2017

Abstract

This paper theorizes three forms of bias that might limit women’s representation: outright hostility, double standards, and a double bind whereby desired traits present bigger burdens for women than men. We examine these forms of bias using conjoint experiments derived from several original surveys – a population survey of American voters and two rounds of surveys of American public officials. We find no evidence of outright discrimination, or double standards. All else equal, most groups of respondents prefer female candidates, and evaluate men and women with identical profiles similarly. But on closer inspection, all is not equal. Across the board, elites and voters prefer candidates with traditional household profiles such as being married and having children, resulting in a double bind for many women. So long as social expectations about women’s familial commitments cut against the demands of a full time political career, women are likely to remain underrepresented in politics.

Keywords: gender bias, women in politics, American public opinion, conjoint experiment, political behavior, mass vs. elite preferences

Suggested Citation

Teele, Dawn and Kalla, Joshua and Rosenbluth, Frances McCall, The Ties that Double Bind: Social Roles and Women's Underrepresentation in Politics (May 21, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2971732 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2971732

Dawn Teele (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Joshua Kalla

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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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