Public Choice

, Volume 100, Issue 3, pp 289-300

First online:

Women's suffrage and the growth of the welfare state

  • Burton A. AbramsAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of Delaware
  • , Russell F. SettleAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of Delaware

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


In this paper we test the hypothesis that extensions of the voting franchise to include lower income people lead to growth in government, especially growth in redistribution expenditures. The empirical analysis takes advantage of the natural experiment provided by Switzerland's extension of the franchise to women in 1971. Women's suffrage represents an institutional change with potentially significant implications for the positioning of the decisive voter. For various reasons, the decisive voter is more likely to favor increases in governmental social welfare spending following the enfranchisement of women. Evidence indicates that this extension of voting rights increased Swiss social welfare spending by 28% and increased the overall size of the Swiss government.