Do You Have What It Takes? Quasi-Experimental Evidence On the Effect of Gender and Age On Bargaining Over Government Formation

51 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2019

See all articles by Alba Huidobro

Alba Huidobro

Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals - IBEI

Albert Falcó-Gimeno

University of Barcelona

Date Written: May 2019


In most representative democracies, citizens elect representatives but not government members. Becoming a ruler often depends on the capacity to build alliances with other parties in one of the key junctures of the political process: the government formation process. Beyond traditional variables relating to parties' size, ideology, and institutions, this paper examines the role of two politicians' personal characteristics, gender and age, on their ability to capitalize on political power when bargaining over the formation of a government. We leverage the as-if random assignment of a bargaining advantage in close local elections in Spain and apply a regression discontinuity design to compare the capacity to secure the mayor's position of parties led by female/male or younger/older politicians that win by a narrow margin. We find important differences in the resulting governments depending on the personal characteristics of the politicians involved in the formation process. Both women and the young are significantly less likely to be appointed mayor even if they came first in elections, although female politicians will manage to get in the governing coalition anyway, while younger politicians will stay out. The implications of several potential mechanisms are tested and no clear evidence is found to claim that this is a result of discrimination towards female or young politicians, or differences in policy-seeking motivations or leadership style. The findings of this paper are important for our understanding of the role of personal characteristics in the political process as well as for how bargaining in politics works, and have far-reaching implications for the quality of representation in democracies where citizens do not directly elect rulers.

Keywords: Government Formation, Gender, Age, Regression Discontinuity, Spain, Local Politics

JEL Classification: D72, H70

Suggested Citation

Huidobro, Alba and Falcó-Gimeno, Albert, Do You Have What It Takes? Quasi-Experimental Evidence On the Effect of Gender and Age On Bargaining Over Government Formation (May 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Alba Huidobro

Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, E-08005

Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals - IBEI ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27
Barcelona, Barcelona 08005

Albert Falcó-Gimeno (Contact Author)

University of Barcelona ( email )

Av. Diagonal 684
Barcelona, 08034
(+34) 934020963 (Phone)


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