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Gender quotas and the crisis of the mediocre man: theory and evidence from Sweden

Besley, Timothy, Folke, Olle, Persson, Torsten and Rickne, Johanna (2017) Gender quotas and the crisis of the mediocre man: theory and evidence from Sweden. American Economic Review, 107 (8). pp. 2204-2242. ISSN 0002-8282

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Identification Number: 10.1257/aer.20160080


We develop a model where party leaders choose the competence of politicians on the ballot to trade off electoral success against their own survival. The predicted correlation between the competence of party leaders and followers is strongly supported in Swedish data. We use a novel approach, based on register data for the earnings of the whole population, to measure the competence of all politicians in seven parties, 290 municipalities, and ten elections (1982-2014). We ask how competence was affected by a "zipper" quota, requiring local parties to alternate males and females on the ballot, implemented by the Social Democratic party in 1993. Far from being at odds with meritocracy, this quota raised the competence of male politicians where it raised female representation the most. We argue that resignations of mediocre male leaders was a key driver of this effect.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 American Economic Association
Divisions: Economics
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2017 11:38
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 02:29

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