Is Running Enough? Reconsidering the Conventional Wisdom about Women Candidates
The conventional wisdom in the literature on women candidates holds that “when women run, they win as often as men.” This has led to a strong focus in the literature on the barriers to entry for women candidates and significant evidence that these barriers hinder representation. Yet, a growing body of research suggests that some disadvantages persist for Republican women even after they choose to run for office. In this paper, I investigate the aggregate consequences of these disadvantages for general election outcomes. Using a regression discontinuity design, I show that Republican women who win close House primaries lose at higher rates in the general election than Republican men. This nomination effect holds throughout the 1990s despite a surge in Republican voting starting in 1994. I find no such effect for Democratic women and provide evidence that a gap in elite support explains part of the cross-party difference.
KeywordsElections Gender Women candidates Regression discontinuity design
I am grateful to Chris Berry, Ryan Enos, Adam Glynn, Andrew Hall, Horacio Larreguy, Audrey Latura, Shauna Shames, and Jim Snyder for helpful suggestions and advice. I also benefited significantly from feedback by participants at Harvard’s Graduate Political Economy Workshop and Inequality and Social Policy Seminar.
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