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Study Shows Women Legislators More Effective

A study by researchers at Stanford University and the University of Chicago says that national women legislators routinely outperform their male counterparts. The study, entitled “The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect: Why Do Congresswoman Outperform Congressmen?,” takes into account three defining factors: how many bills the member introduces, how many co-sponsors they recruit, and how much discretionary spending they generate for their districts during the course of one Congress.

According to the study, women legislators sponsor 3 and co-sponsor 26 more bills, recruit 25 more co-sponsors per term, and generate 9 percent more discretionary spending per Congress than their male counterparts. An article in The Atlantic attributes women’s higher success rate to the “underdog effect.” The “underdog” theory claims that the women who run for office are on average more qualified and politically ambitious than the numerous male representatives and work twice as hard. Currently, just 17 percent of the US Congressional representation is female.

Sarah F. Anzia and Christopher R. Berry, authors of the study, reason that “if voters are biased against female candidates, only the most talented, hardest working female candidate will succeed in the electoral process. Furthermore, if women perceive there to be sex discrimination in the electoral process, or if they underestimate their qualifications for office relative to men, then only the most qualified, politically ambitious females will emerge as candidates.”

In the past, many women have decided on a career in politics only after being urged by outsiders. Hillary Clinton has admitted that she only really resolved to run for office when a bystander at a rally honoring women’s participation in sports whispered to her “Dare to compete Mrs. Clinton.” Fortunately the trend of women waiting to run seems to be reversing. Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University told Double X, “You are seeing more of a range. In particular, some younger women coming out of law schools are fast-tracking themselves into politics.”

Sources:

The Atlantic 9/16/09; Double X 6/30/09; The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect 8/5/09