Why So Few Women in Politics? Evidence from India

Content from the Brookings Institution India Center is now archived. After seven years of an impactful partnership, as of September 11, 2020, Brookings India is now the Centre for Social and Economic Progress, an independent public policy institution based in India.

In this paper, the authors analyze women as political candidates in Indian democracy. Using 50 years of assembly elections data at the constituency level from the Indian states, they show that women are more likely to contest elections in those constituencies where gender ratio of the electors is less in favor of women. For example, women are more likely to contest elections in backward states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where the gender ratio of electors is in favor of men than in socially developed states like Kerala where the gender ratio of electors is more in favor of women. We present a citizens candidates model of representative democracy and show that our empirical results are consistent with the theoretical predictions of this model. Our results challenge the existing policy of random reservation of seats for women.

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