Lessons from India in gender politics

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Ray Fisman of Slate shares some lessons from India in gender politics:

Rural Indians are learning firsthand what it’s like to live under female leadership as a result of a 1991 law that restricted one-third of village council elections to female candidates. The villagers’ experiences are analyzed by economists Esther Duflo and Petia Topalova in a recent unpublished study. Using opinion surveys and data on local “public goods” — like schools, roads, and water pumps — Duflo and Topalova find that the villages headed by women invested in more services that benefited the entire community than did those with gender-neutral elections, nearly all of which were won by men. But as the opinion polls showed, for all their effectiveness, the women’s governance was literally a thankless effort, with the new leaders getting lower approval ratings than their male counterparts.

Of course, any time you bring new people in from the outside, you should expect them to act differently from the insiders who are beholden to entrenched special interest groups.

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