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.

Gender Quotas Become More Effective Over Time

In a forthcoming paper, Pamela Paxton & Melanie Hughes examine the effectiveness of legislative gender quotas. This is an important paper in many ways. Striking is for example their use of a latent growth curve model to overcome something I have always criticized, namely ignoring the trajectory a country is on — essentially the counterfactual. Substantively, they find that legal quotas have become more effective, they’re increasingly “having teeth”.

What I found a bit disappointing, though, is that there was no effort to capture changes in attitudes towards women as political leaders. While this particular analysis in my book is not as fancy as the Paxton & Hughes paper, I compare changes in attitudes with changes in quota provisions and changes in the number of women elected to national legislatures. Changes in attitudes were associated with changes in the legislatures; changes in quotas were not. Now, if quotas have become more effective after around 2005, this is entirely in line with the Paxton & Hughes paper, but what about the situation today?

Paxton, Pamela, and Melanie M. Hughes. 2015 forthcoming. “The Increasing Effectiveness of National Gender Quotas, 1990-2010.” Legislative Studies Quarterly.

Ruedin, Didier. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.

The Impact of Gender Quotas

quotasHaving just read The Impact of Gender Quotas edited by Susan Franceschet, Mona Lena Krook, and Jennifer M. Piscopo, I was glad to see that they draw similar conclusions about gender quotas that I did based on my cross-country analysis involving all free and partly free countries here and here. Using different case studies, the contributors to this edited volume seem to find little evidence that the gender quotas led to better representation of what is referred to as women’s interests. Quotas only work where there is strong cultural support for these quotas. This is where I take a different interpretation, arguing that it isn’t the quotas but the support for these that matter.

Like most contributions to the topic, the book maintains a positive outlook on quotas, arguing that perhaps there are long-term benefits we cannot see yet. Isn’t that just a reflection that we want quotas to work, because as an institutional fix they’d offer a relatively easy solution to the problem? In my view, the trouble with this is that it can distract from the real challenge: fixing the broken values and attitudes.

Ruedin, Didier. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.

Ruedin, Didier. 2012. “The Representation of Women in National Parliaments: A Cross-National Comparison.” European Sociological Review 28 (1): 96–109. doi:10.1093/esr/jcq050.

‘Why Aren’t They There?’ A Study of Political Representation

2013. ECPR Press. ·


Why Aren’t They There? is a comprehensive study of political representation in a cross-national format. It examines the representation of women, ethnic groups, and policy positions in a cross-country comparison.

The book includes an analysis of the representation of women over time, and presents a critical view of the effectiveness of quotas. Using new data on ethnic groups in legislatures, the book is a significant step forward in the analysis of political representation. The representation of issue positions is examined in eight policy domains. The systematic approach of the book allows a ground-breaking examination of how different forms of representation – women, ethnic groups, issue positions – are interlinked.

It examines aspects that are unattainable in studies focusing on only a single form of representation. This results in a comprehensive understanding of political representation, and leads to important and policy-relevant insights for electoral engineering.

Link to ECPR Press | Table of Contents | Sample Chapter

Quotas in Costa Rica

National legislature differ in the extent to which they include women. For many reasons it is desirable to have inclusive legislatures, and quotas are one means to increase the proportion of women in legislatures. Are they effective? Pamela Paxton, Melanie Hughes and Matthew Painter included the example of Costa Rica in their EJPR article.

The example is useful to illustrate that just requiring parties to have 40% women on their lists does not make a big difference. Parties can comply with this rule while placing most of the women at the bottom of the list, resulting in few (if any) more women elected to the legislature. Costa Rica later introduced placement mandates, making the quota law much more effective.

Costa Rica

Here I replicate (and extend) their figure 1. I have used the latest figures from the IPU, which differ slightly for 1994 and 2002 (red dots = data cited in article). We can see that there was stagnation after the increase associated with the placement mandates. As far as I can tell, this is typical. My take on this is that attitudes need to catch up before we see further increases (dashed line, assuming a gradual change over time). Indeed, the quotas possibly were made possible by the low proportion of women in legislature lagging attitudes on what the population deems desirable. A big question is whether these additional women in the legislature have an impact on policy and the lives of ordinary women (and men) beyond what attitudes in society suggest.

Paxton, P., M. Hughes, and M. Painter. 2010. ‘Growth in women’s political representation: A longitudinal exploration of democracy, electoral system and gender quotas’. European Journal of Political Research 49(1):25–52.