Gender Differences in Politician Persistence

50 Pages Posted: 9 May 2019

See all articles by Melanie Wasserman

Melanie Wasserman

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Date Written: November 27, 2018


Why are women underrepresented in politics? This paper documents gender differences in the career paths of novice politicians by studying the persistence of candidates after they win or lose elections. I track the political trajectories of over 11,000 candidates in local California elections and use a regression discontinuity approach. Losing an election causes 50 percent more attrition among female than male candidates: an electoral loss causes men to be 16 percentage points less likely to run again within the next four years, whereas the drop for women is 25 percentage points. Yet the gender gap in persistence depends on the setting: I find no evidence of a gap among candidates for high female representation offices or among more experienced candidates. These results are inconsistent with behavioral explanations of women’s differential attrition. Instead, the results suggest that in low information environments, voters may penalize novice female politicians, which deters women from running again. I discuss the implications of the results for the gender gap in officeholding.

Keywords: elections; gender; discrimination

JEL Classification: J16, D72, J71, J24

Suggested Citation

Wasserman, Melanie, Gender Differences in Politician Persistence (November 27, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Melanie Wasserman (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States


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