Why PR systems might be good for women

Scholars often claim that having a proportional representation (PR) system leads to a better inclusion of women and other minorities of power in national legislatures. Typically, we refer to the larger districts found in PR systems (e.g. Lijphart 1994, Rule and Zimmerman 1994, Katz 1997). Why do we find an association between district magnitude (the size of the electoral districts) and including more women in the legislature?

At a superficial level, we know that more candidates are picked in larger districts. This increases the likelihood that one of the women among the candidates is elected. To understand this increased probability we need to make an assumption — something rarely spelled out: We need to assume that there are only a few women standing — which is quite reasonable in most contexts. We also need to assume that women are less likely to be at the top of the ballot — which is the same as assuming that men are more likely to be at the top of the ballot.

Here are three situations to illustrate this. In situation 1, men are more likely at the top than women. Stating the obvious, this means that the men are more likely to be elected. We can imagine majoritarian systems as districts where (by definition) only the candidate at the top is picked (and then only of one of the parties). In this sense, there is nothing inherently beneficial in proportional representation as a system, or the underlying larger district magnitude: the system interacts with the placement of candidates.

In situation 2, we have a larger district, thus a larger number of candidates are elected. In the graphic, this means we reach further down the list. We have the same ballots where men are more likely at the top, but by reaching further down a woman is elected.

In situation 3, we have the same district magnitude as in situation 2 (4 candidates are elected), but there is now a third party. In terms of picking women, this is equivalent to having smaller districts, because we no longer reach as far down the lists.

With these three situations, we can also understand the concept of party magnitude introduced by Matland (1993). He argued that causally speaking, party magnitude is closer to the inclusion of women in legislatures than the district magnitude. We can calculate the party magnitude by dividing the district magnitude by the number of parties in the districts. With this, Matland implicitly acknowledged situation 3 here, and made the same fundamental assumptions outlined above: Men are more likely to take the top spot of party lists than women are. The concept of party magnitude combines the two effects of (a) reaching further down the lists when the district magnitude is large, and (b) not reaching as far down the lists when many parties are competing.

Once we have understood these two mechanisms, it is clear why the effects of party magnitude are temporarily limited — assuming a general trend towards including more women in legislatures. Matland acknowledges this limitation, but does not spell out why it exists. When few women are included on the ballots, the effect of party magnitude is limited. In this case, the likelihood of electing a woman is low, irrespective of the number of parties or the district magnitude. As more women are included, we can observe a stronger association with party magnitude. This is because of the two mechanisms: (a) more women are elected where the districts are larger, and (b) more women are elected where the number of parties is smaller. However, if women are as common as candidates as men and women are equally likely to appear at the top of the ballot, the association is low. In this case, the likelihood of electing a woman approaches 50%.

PR systems might be good for women not because of an inherent advantage, but because the larger district magnitude (which is inherent in the system) combined with candidate selection and candidate placement can increase the probability of electing women into legislatures. Put differently, just like in majoritarian systems, candidate selection and candidate placement are driving the association. Beyond specifying the mechanism, this exercise also highlights that political parties and party elites play such an important role in making sure women get into electable positions.

The literature sometimes insists on closed PR lists. This is only relevant inasmuch as the parties and party elite include more women on the ballot than the population would support or — and that’s possibly quite important — with a population that does not care enough about gender to make it a priority in elections (i.e. gender is not sufficiently salient). If we imagine a society with conservative party elites and a progressive electorate (or where the party elite assumes the population to be more conservative as they are), closed PR lists would be detrimental.

Why do we care? Having a PR system in itself is a poor explanation for changes in the inclusion of women in legislatures as we observe them across the world. By focusing on the role of political parties and the political elite may be more fruitful in understanding changes. With this, we should also research why some countries have PR systems in the first place — it might be a reflection of a more inclusive culture or tradition, something which might still be reflected in present day political behaviour, but difficult to disentangle empirically.

Katz, R. 1997. ‘Representational Roles’. European Journal of Political Research 32: 211–26.
Lijphart, A. 1994. Electoral Systems and Party Systems: A Study of Twenty-Seven Democracies, 1945–1990. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Matland, R. 1993. ‘Institutional Variables Affecting Female Representation in National Legislatures: The Case of Norway’. Journal of Politics 55: 737–55.
Ruedin, Didier. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.
Rule, W., and J. Zimmerman, eds. 1994. Electoral Systems in Comparative Perspective: Their Impact on Women and Minorities. Westport: Greenwood Press.

Quota Shocks!

There’s a new paper by Amanda Clayton and Pär Zetterberg on the political effects of gender quotas. The paper looks at government spending expenditures between 1995 and 2012, a period when many countries adopted quotas for women. Taking an effects-of-causes approach, the paper takes the implementation of these quotas as an external shock. I really like how they differentiate between quota adaption and quota implementation!

The introduction of quotas is indeed associated with substantial increases in government spending on public health, and (relative) reductions in military spending. The paper comes with extensive robustness checks (e.g. it’s not just about the connection between post-conflict societies and quota adoption), but the sceptic in me cannot let go of the nagging feeling that we don’t know enough about when quotas are implemented… but definitely a paper you should read!

Clayton, Amanda, and Pär Zetterberg. 2018. ‘Quota Shocks: Electoral Gender Quotas and Government Spending Priorities Worldwide’. The Journal of Politics, May, 000–000. https://doi.org/10.1086/697251.

A migration-mobility nexus

Recently I realized that colleagues of mine working in projects of the NCCR on the move keep referring to a migration-mobility nexus as if it was an established term in the literature (e.g. in their draft papers). So I figured it would be useful to have a bit more about this term on the web than the two brief descriptions by the NCCR itself.

You can blame me for this awkward term I came up with when preparing the second stage of the original grant proposal. We were looking for a clearer description what unites the diverse projects of the NCCR. It’s an analytical framework that helps make sense of immigration-related phenomena.

At its core, the migration-mobility nexus consists of three components:

– migration
– mobility
– nexus

By referring to migration and mobility, we acknowledge that in the literature understandings of migration and mobility as concepts are multiple (thus some see migration as a form of mobility, and others see mobility as a form of migration). In the migration-mobility nexus, the terms are two poles of a continuum that is closely related to a narrative of social change.

Migration is one pole of the migration-mobility nexus. It refers to an ‘old school’ understanding of patterns of movement, movement that is typically across national borders. It is a static perspective, with a one-off, long-term or permanent movement from a place of origin to a place of destination where the person settles. This is what Economiesuisse refers to as ‘old’ migration, and implies low-skilled immigrants. If this perspective ever was adequate, it is clear that ‘migration’ is wholly inadequate a description of contemporary social phenomena related to movements across and within borders.

Mobility is the second pole of the migration-mobility nexus. It refers to ‘new’ patterns of movement(s), typically across national borders. It is a fluid perspective, with multiple, temporary movements between places. Notions of place of origin and destination are completely meaningless, and people live in multiple places at the same time. The pole is exemplified by writings by John Urry or by Zygmunt Bauman’s notion of a liquid world, the fleeting and forever temporary. This goes well beyond what Economiesuisse refers to as ‘new’ migration, the highly-skilled immigrants from Western Europe. It also goes and well beyond focusing on knowledge workers from the European Union. While this perspective helps us understand that ‘migration’ is inadequate, ‘mobility’ in its pure form is equally inadequate a description of contemporary social phenomena related to movements across and within national borders.

Nexus refers to the juxtaposition of migration and mobility. It is a shortcut to describe the continuum between the two poles, neither of which on its own provides a satisfactory description of the social world, and thus hinders a deep understanding of relevant social phenomena.

In the migration-mobility nexus, the description of the two poles is closely related to a narrative of social change. We can readily identify three aspects of globalization that are relevant to immigration that have been suggested to coincide with or drive a change from ‘migration’ to ‘mobility’. With that, new conflict lines emerge.

First, according to this narrative, legal orders have changed from a dominant nation state to one where the supranational plays an increasing role in regulating movements across national borders. Second, market forces play an increasing role in organizing and regulating movements — an increasing role of the economy. Third, societal dynamics describe how social cohesion is threatened through new exclusions that coincide with the changes described. The migration-mobility nexus is embedded in this narrative of social change.

Commentators and politicians often imply that these changes have led to a (one-way) change from migration to mobility — hence the idea of a shift from ‘old’ to ‘new’ migration. A more careful examination reveals changes, of course, but not a complete shift from one kind to another kind. Instead, we can observe a tension between the two poles of the migration-mobility nexus: Sometimes the migration part is stronger; sometimes the mobility part is stronger. It depends on the context, or the group of people examined. By referring to a migration-mobility nexus, we openly say that things are more complex than a simple shift, that there are no universal narratives that apply to everyone, there are no one-way streets, no adequate one-fits-all perspective, and the three structural shifts outlined are countered by agency. It is the recognition of this tension between the two poles that continues to be productive and provide new answers.

Out now — Choosing to migrate illegally: Evidence from return migrants

I am happy to announce a paper written with Majlinda Nesturi — Choosing Unauthorized Migration: Evidence from Return Migrants. While we have much knowledge about the nature of unauthorized migration and why it can and does occur, there is surprisingly little on why some individuals choose unauthorized immigration and others do not. As far as we could determine, nobody has ever used actual unauthorized migration (as opposed to authorized migration) as the outcome variable in quantitative analysis. One reason for this is most certainly that unauthorized migrants are hard to capture, especially in the country of destination. We use data on return migrants in Albania to capture actual unauthorized (rather than intended) behaviour. What is more, we capture unauthorized immigration when the migrants do not have to fear any consequences for revealing their previous behaviour.

We show that being young and male is associated with the choice or unauthorized migration. Our interpretation is that these two variables capture risk-taking behaviour — something future research should verify with dedicated variables. We also show that individuals are more likely to choose unauthorized migration when they are free of social responsibilities like having a partner or children. At the same time, authorized and unauthorized migrants resemble each other in many other aspects. If you think about it, this implies that restrictive immigration policies may lead to selecting risk-taking individuals, not necessarily those most needed in the labour market.

Elsevier Certificate of Outstanding Contribution in Reviewing

Today I was awarded a Certificate of Outstanding Contribution in Reviewing for reviews I’ve undertaken last year. To be honest, my first reaction was a bit cynical (I didn’t know about the programme)… I mean what else will they think of next to motivate reviewers? Shouldn’t it be a natural thing to do reviews — something we’re intrinsically motivated to do in our quest for better science? I mean we already get to routinely choose if I want to brag about our reviewing on Publons these days (oh, hang on, are these competing services?). I then came across an explanation of these certificates by Elsevier. I learned that they have been around for 5 years now, and that the editors get to choose 25 awardees! Now this no longer feels so hollow.