Creative Destruction

November 10, 2006

Does Having Women In Elected Office Make A Difference To Policy?

Filed under: Election 2006,Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 2:42 pm

A few days before the election, Rachel blogged that “women were poised to make gains in election” and asked, “If the number of women increases, do you think this could affect policies or do you think we will start to see the women politicians join the ranks of the ‘good old boys’?”

There are two reports from the Institute For Women’s Policy Research that suggest that more female legislators does mean more feminist and pro-woman laws will be passed. The first, “Does Women’s Representation in Elected Office Lead to Women-Friendly Policy?” (pdf link) looks at how many laws benefiting women, such as “protection from violence, access to income support (through welfare and child support collection), women-friendly employment protections, legislation protecting sexual minorities, and reproductive rights,” have been passed in each of the fifty states. ((The three best states for women, by this measure: Hawaii, Vermont and Washington. The three worst: Tennessee, Mississippi, and Idaho.))

What the IWPR found is that the more women are in elected office in a state, and the more powerful those elected offices are, the more woman-friendly legislation gets passed.

As the authors point out, the direction of causation is ambiguous. Maybe more women in office leads to more “woman-friendly” laws; but it’s also possible that states that are open to these laws are more likely to elect women legislators. I think it’s likely that both are true.

On an aggregate level, women’s presence in legislatures and other state-level elected offices is closely associated with better policy for women. This suggests that having women in elected office may be important to encouraging states to adopt policies relevant to women’s lives. Conversely, women’s resources and rights may influence the number of women elected to public office.

The second IWPR report, “Gender Differences in Bill Sponsorship on Women’s Issues” (pdf link), examines who sponsors which bills. From the report:

Within each party, women are more likely to sponsor women’s issue bills than are their male colleagues.

Across both Congresses, between 23 percent and 27 percent points more Democratic women than Democratic men utilized their scarce resources of time, staff, and political capital to develop women’s issue legislation. Among Republicans, 83 percent of Republican women sponsored a women’s issue bill in the 103rd Congress, compared to just 37 percent of Republican men. However, in the 104th Congress, the proportion of Republican women sponsoring women’s issue bills dropped to 59 percent, only 12 percentage points more than Republican men. This 24 percentage point drop was largely due to the election of six conservative Republican freshman women, none of whom sponsored any type of women’s issue bill. [...]

The influence of gender on a member’s legislative behavior is highly dependent on his/her specific political ideology. All Democratic women and moderate Republican women are much more likely to sponsor women’s issue bills than are their male colleagues of the same party and ideology. In contrast, conservative Republican women are not more likely to sponsor women’s issue bills than are their conservative Republican male counterparts.

So it appears likely that having women in government does make a difference to what laws are proposed and passed.

Although these reports are several years old, they’re especially relevant today, since we have now elected record-breaking numbers of women to congress, and we will soon have the first female Speaker of the House in US history. (I really love Jen’s take on that).

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5 Comments »

  1. Of course it will change. Female voters love to vote for big government and tend to vote liberal.

    Women also tend to vote for the better looking candidate. The issues are irrelevant to them.

    A government that wishes to become a bigger government should allow women to vote.

    Having more women in positions of authority could have problems as well. These women could make lives harder for men, by imposing stricter laws about child support and alimony even if the women is just plain sick of the marriage. Which will result if more men and women sick of feminism.

    this site.

    Feminism has not really done anything except put women to work and abortions. That is about it.

    Please tell me what good feminism has done, I would appreciate it!!!!

    Comment by Patriarch Verlch — November 26, 2006 @ 1:24 am | Reply

  2. Women also tend to vote for the better looking candidate. The issues are irrelevant to them.

    So do men. I haven’t seen any evidence that women vote more stupidly than men. Men vote pretty stupidly. Women would have to be really innovating in the whole dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks department to beat our record.

    Comment by Robert — November 26, 2006 @ 4:59 am | Reply

  3. Of course it will change. Female voters love to vote for big government and tend to vote liberal.

    Republicans aren’t the party of small government. They don’t want a small military big enough to defend America’s borders. They want a HUGE military sending off men in their hundreds of thousands to get killed, while killing other men. They don’t want a small prison system to lock up just those who victimise others. They want a HUGE prison system to lock up mostly men for victimless crimes such as possession. They don’t a limited government. They want a government which reaches into people’s homes, bedrooms, and wombs.

    Comment by Daran — November 26, 2006 @ 10:09 am | Reply

  4. Well, things were just fine until women started voting. There was no taxation, a small government, a wonderful army. Then around 1919 women got to vote, and within 20 years there was a 5% tax, within 52 years there was unrestricted abortion.

    Now our taxes stand at 40% of our income. Sales taxes, property taxes, you name it, everything is taxed.

    Without women voting it would have taken the government for the next 1000 years to do 10% of what they have done to the American people.

    Daren were you raised by a single mother? We have a strong military lets us use it. There is a global agenda to enslave the world in a global system of taxation and world citizenship. The worldwide government will be run by a few men, who by all accounts are trillionares.

    Wouldn’t you agree that we need to control the oil supply while we can to make sure our nation can succeed while we find alternative fuel sources?

    Comment by Patriarch Verlch — December 7, 2006 @ 1:02 pm | Reply

  5. We have a strong military lets us use it.

    Thanks for confirming that. You don’t want a small government at all. You want a huge government so big the borders of America can’t contain it. You want it to reach into other countries on other continents.

    There is a global agenda to enslave the world in a global system of taxation and world citizenship. The worldwide government will be run by a few men, who by all accounts are trillionares.

    And that’s what you want to use ‘our’ military to create?

    Comment by Daran — December 7, 2006 @ 3:24 pm | Reply


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