Local Female Representation as a Pathway to Power: A Natural Experiment in India
57 Pages Posted: 1 May 2020
Date Written: May 1, 2020
Does a numeric increase in local female representation influence women’s rise in the electoral hierarchy? While a vast literature examines the spillovers of female representation on political peers and citizens, we know little about upstream spillovers. I examine this question using the natural experiment of as-if random assignment of gender reservations in the world’s largest local elections in Delhi. I find that each additional increase in local female representation more than doubles the % of local female candidates that contest state elections and the likelihood that local and re-contesting state-level female candidates and incumbents secure party nominations. Consequently, female vote-share doubles. A conjoint experiment confirms that voters in local female constituencies prefer female candidates in state elections. Local female representation has upstream spillovers because it increases women’s influence within parties and enables cross-level gender co-operation, even when local representation is quota-mandated, and over shorter time horizon than widely assumed.
Keywords: Descriptive representation, female leadership, gender quota, natural experiment, India
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