Thursday, April 18

Why are women less democratic than men?

Curious, whilst I had heard that there is a clear and statistically significant difference in women versus men voters, I never really delved deeper into it. This paper gave some interesting learning points for me

    1. in developing countries women tend to exhibit less support for democracy than men
    2. the two sexes behave differently in politics, as they vote differently and do not implement the same policies
    3. The evidence for Sub-Saharan Africa indicates that, on average, 73 percent of men believe that democracy is preferable to any other kind of government, while only 65 percent of women agree with this statement
    4. It is well established that men and women vote differently, with women tending to support more left-wing parties;
    5. Three reasons have been put forward as explanations of gender differences in preferences for parties and policies: women’s greater risk aversion and the consequent desire for insurance; women’s lower incomes or expected incomes, for example following a prospective divorce, leading to support for redistribution; and a preference for social expenditures such as basic infrastructure (e.g. water supplies), health and education that impact the production of household goods, including children, on which women tend to specialize;
    6. Evidence for India shows that the type of public goods provided depends strongly on the gender of the local political leader, with female leaders investing more in goods linked to their own concerns, such as drinking water, and spending more in public health provision
    7. the work on corruption and gender has highlighted that females are less likely to be involved in corruption and in bribes and that increasing the share of females in the political arena and, more generally, social equality between men and women reduces the degree of corruption
    8. in countries with a sufficiently high level of the Human Development Index and political rights there is no significant difference in the replies of the two sexes. Such evidence implies that the observed gender gap in democratic support does not capture intrinsic differences in the preferences of men and women but rather that it is highly dependent on the economic and institutional climate in which women live
    9. An alternative hypothesis is that women’s lower support for democracy comes from the fact that democratic transitions are often associated with civil conflict. If women have a higher cost of conflict than men, then they are less likely to support democracy. Our analysis seems to point in this direction. When asked whether the country’s leader should be chosen through open elections, women respond yes as often as men. However, they are less likely to support party plurality and limits on re-election. It is possible that these two aspects are seen by women as sources of potential conflict and hence as the ’down side of democracy’, which would explain their replies to the broader question of whether they think democracy is the best possible regime

Very interesting results indeed. Not much to say other than transitions can really be challenging but it takes a long time for women to recover from transitions like this….something that can actually make their lives better – democracy – has lower support because of high transition costs..

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