What Women Want: Suffrage, Gender Gaps in ... - Stanford University

negative influence on the business climate (see Jones, 1991 and Banaszak, 1996). ... by the electorate, their effect on the size of government is small: between 1981 ... Berman (1993) also provides evidence that women in Arizona were less ...
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What Women Want: Suffrage, Gender Gaps in Voter Preferences and Government Expenditures Patricia Funk SITE - Stockholm School of Economics Christina Gathmann Stanford University

This Draft: July 2006

Abstract This paper combines unique individual-level information on ballot votes with state-level data on expenditures to provide new evidence on how women suffrage has affected government spending. Using data from the last country in Europe to adopt suffrage, Switzerland, we demonstrate two main results. First, women suffrage has changed the scope of government much more than its size. Women are more likely to support expenditures for public goods like environment and public transport, but oppose defense spending and subsidies for agriculture. Second, the political gender gap has shifted over time. While women were equally likely than men to support publicly provided health and welfare services shortly after suffrage adoption, their demand for these services has increased over the past two decades. We calculate that ten years after women suffrage, total expenditures are around 7 percent lower than prior to adoption, while welfare expenditures are 10 percent higher. Keywords: Women Suffrage, Fiscal Policy, Voter Preferences, Switzerland

*Correspondence: Patricia Funk, Stockholm Institute for Transition Economics (SITE), Stockholm School of Economics, Email: [email protected]; Christina Gathmann, Department of Economics and Stanford Center for International Development, Stanford University, Email: [email protected] We thank Renee Adams, Ulf Axelson, Erik Bergloef, Doug Bernheim, Francine Blau, Tore Ellingsen, Daniel Ferreira, Mariassunta Gianetti, Henning Hillmann, Helena Svaleryd, Michele Tertilt, seminar participants of the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics, Stockholm School of Economics, University of Uppsala, University of St. Gallen, Stanford University and the Midwest Political Science Association for useful comments and suggestions. We are grateful to Werner Seitz, Magdalena Schneider and Elisabeth Willen from the Swiss Bureau of Statistics, Andreas Ladner, Klaus Armingeon, Hans Hirter and Christian Bolliger from the University of Berne and Francois Loretan from SIDOS for invaluable help in collecting the data. Patricia Funk gratefully acknowledges financial support from the Swedish Research Council Vetenskapsradet.



A dramatic expansion of the electorate occurred when women received the right to vote. Since women suffrage roughly doubled the size of the electorate, we would expect government to take quite a different form, if women have different policy preferences than men.1 Proponents of the anti-suffrage movement even argued that suffrage would destroy families, decline the quality of elected politicians or have a negative influence on the business climate (see Jones, 1991 and Banaszak, 1996). Despite these drastic predictions, surprisingly little is known about the actual policy response to women suffrage. For the United States, Lott and Kenny (1999) report that women suffrage caused a substantial increase in the size of government between 1870 and 1940. In sharp contrast, Aidt et al. (2006) find that female franchise had little effect on expenditures in several European countries in the late 19th and early 20th century. All previous studies rely on aggregate national or state-level data, and cover time periods with limited data availability. This paper makes use of individual voting choices to analyze differences in political preferences between men and women directly. The richness of the data allow us to distinguish between political gender gaps in different policy areas, for example preferences for unemployment insurance from preferences for agricultural subsidies. We combine our individual-level evidence with a detailed aggregate analysis of the fiscal policy responses to women suffrage. This allows us to check the consistency of our results using two very different data sources and assess potential co