Gender quotas and the crisis of the mediocre man: Theory and Evidence from Sweden

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March 23, 2017

Gender quotas and the crisis of the mediocre man: Theory and Evidence from Sweden

Quotas aren't anathema to meritocracy: they increase competence levels by displacing mediocre men, write Timothy Besley, Olle Folke, Torsten Persson and iKNOW Politics Expert Johanna Rickne in their paper. The abstract is provided below.


Abstract

We develop a model where party leaders choose the competence of politicians on the ballot to trade off electoral success against their own survival. The predicted correlation between the competence of party leaders and followers is strongly supported in Swedish data. We use a novel approach, based on register data for the earnings of the whole population, to measure the competence of all politicians in seven parties, 290 municipalities, and ten elections (1982-2014). We ask how competence was affected by a "zipper" quota, requiring local parties to alternate males and females on the ballot, implemented by the Social Democratic party in 1993. Far from being at odds with meritocracy, this quota raised the competence of male politicians where it raised female representation the most. We argue that resignations of mediocre male leaders was a key driver of this effect.

Click here to read the paper. 

Click here to read an LSE blog post based on the paper. 

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Author: 
Timothy Besley, Olle Folke, Torsten Persson, and Johanna Rickne
Publisher: 
American Economic Review
Publication year: 
2017
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