Women in National Legislatures

A simple query to get data by Fabrizio Gilardi meant I was digging out old analyses from my article on the political representation of women in national legislatures. I put of running beta regressions on these data for too long, and now there was no reason not to.

Embarrassingly, in this context I realized that the coefficients in table 3 are incorrect — although marginally. It appears that in the process of changing the dependent variable from one that caters for the percentage of women in the population to ignoring it (makes it much easier to explain), I forgot to replace the entire table with new values (this was in the days before Sweave and odfWeave). Given that the results are essentially the same, I never noticed — but it still feels quite silly. Anyway, here are the corrected numbers, first as coefficient plot comparing the two models:


So the blue dots and lines use gender representation scores as dependent variable; the red dots and lines use the proportion of women in national legislatures as dependent variables. Below the corresponding table:

Representation scores Proportion
(Intercept) 0.653*** 0.154**
(0.058) (0.058)
PR/MMP 0.043* 0.052**
(0.019) (0.019)
Party Quotas 0.003 0.004
(0.005) (0.005)
Statutory Quotas 0.045* 0.041
(0.021) (0.021)
Political Rights -0.001 -0.004
(0.008) (0.008)
Age Democracy 0.000 0.000
(0.000) (0.000)
Professional Jobs 0.000 0.000
(0.001) (0.001)
Nordic 0.147** 0.139**
(0.044) (0.043)
Eastern Europe -0.074 -0.062
(0.040) (0.040)
Asia -0.105** -0.107**
(0.036) (0.036)
Middle East -0.097* -0.124**
(0.044) (0.043)
Sub-Saharan -0.031 -0.019
(0.036) (0.035)
Latin -0.051 -0.048
(0.032) (0.032)
R-squared 0.536 0.577
N 94 94

Beta regression, proportion of women as dependent variable:

(Intercept) 0.689**
PR/MMP 0.204*
Party Quotas 0.015
Statutory Quotas 0.219*
Political Rights -0.011
Age Democracy 0.001
Professional Jobs 0.001
Nordic 0.988***
Eastern Europe -0.380*
Asia -0.488**
Middle East -0.469*
Sub-Saharan -0.170
Latin -0.253
Pseudo R-squared 0.562
N 94

(Sorry, the arm package does not seem to support beta regressions at the moment, so no coefficient plot)

Jumping Figures in odfWeave

For some reasons (aka default style), figures in odfWeave are not anchored “as character”. This makes them jump around. The solution is relatively easy: change the default style. Except, of course, that there is no visible option to change the anchoring of graphic frames in LibreOffice/OpenOffice.

Here’s how to do it: (1) in your source file, paste a picture (any picture will do). (2) right-click on the picture, and choose “anchor: as character” (3) open the “styles and formatting” box, and choose “frame styles”. (3) select the “graphics” style. (4) choose “new style from selection: update style”.

You can now run odfWeave, and the figures no longer jump around. Who knows, maybe bug 14008 in OpenOffice will be addressed one day…

Limits of Descriptive Representation

Having spent quite a bit on trying to understand political representation, I know how easy it is to forget the wider context. Here I want to highlight just two things.

First, even if the political representation of different groups is a good thing, we mustn’t forget that most political systems do not revolve around ethnic difference or gender, but about economic growth, the availability of jobs, or security and stability more widely.

Second, there’s a paper Robert Goodin that neatly outlines the limits of descriptive representation in representing diversity — whilst maintaining legislatures where deliberation and debate remains possible. While he may not account enough for multiple group membership and the fact that not every legislator needs to take part in every debate, Goodin’s argument is a good reminder to keep in mind the bigger picture: why do we care about political representation? After all, with opinion polls we have a good instrument capturing the preferences of the population…

Goodin, Robert E. 2004. “Representing Diversity.” British Journal of Political Science 34 (3): 453–468. doi:10.1017/S0007123404000134.

The ‘Effect’ of New Zealand’s Electoral Formula on the Proportion of Women in Parliament

New Zealand’s change of electoral system from majoritarian to proportional representation is often hailed as an example of how PR systems are beneficial for getting more women into parliament. Indeed, the number of women elected in the 1996 election increased more than in any other election in New Zealand, leading many to attribute this change to the change in electoral system.

However, when the time span under consideration is increased to include historical election results, the suggestion that the change in electoral system helped to increase the number of women in national parliament is no longer as clear as in a simple before-after comparison.

The proportion of women in the New Zealand parliament started to increase in the 1970s. Between 1978 and 1993, the proportion of women in parliament increased in a relatively linear fashion, increasing at a rate of 3% per election (red trend line).

New Zealand Trend

In 1996, the first time the new electoral system was used (PR), the proportion of women elected into parliament increased noticeably more than in previous elections (8%). In the election that followed, the proportion of women in parliament could not be increased, and for the three most recent elections (results for 2011 are not included in the plot: 32.2% women; they actually corroborate my case), the proportion was around what one would have expected based on the historical trend between 1978 and 1993.

If there were an effect attributable to the electoral system on its own, it is unclear why we did not observe a linear increase in the proportion of women in New Zealand’s parliament since 1996 (green trend line). In this case, the large increase in 1996 would constitute the “penalty” of having had a non-PR system. However, if the majoritarian system was acting as an impediment to including more women in national parliament, the results of the past three elections seem inexplicably low.

I argue that we cannot attribute the change in the proportion of women in New Zealand’s parliament to a change of the system with any confidence. This does not mean that electoral systems are irrelevant, but a more cautious approach should be taken when making causal statements.

Note: This is an elaboration of a point I make in my monograph on political representation I’ve meant to post for a long time.

Foreigners that Steal Jobs?

I’m happy to announce that a tangible product of my SNSF project on attitudes towards foreigners has seen the light: a peer-reviewed working paper on the role of unemployment risk an values in attitudes towards foreigners.

In this paper, we examine attitudes towards foreigners at the individual level, more precisely attitudes towards equal opportunities for foreigners. Reporting that individuals with low levels of education tend to oppose equal opportunities for foreigners will not surprise anyone, but values and beliefs can account for this finding. We show that the opposition by individuals with high levels of education increases with the risk of unemployment.


The blue line is for individuals with primary and lower secondary education; the red line for individuals with upper secondary education; the green line for individuals with tertiary education.

The same pattern can be observed when we look at skills level rather than education. Individual values and beliefs cannot account for the differences related to the risk of unemployment for individuals with tertiary education.

Pecoraro, Marco, and Didier Ruedin. 2013. “A Foreigner Who Doesn’t Steal My Job: The Role of Unemployment Risk and Values in Attitudes towards Foreigners.” FORS Working Paper Series 2013 (5): 1–37.