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Women as Policy Makers: Evidence from a Randomized Policy Experiment in India

September 2004

Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, Esther Duflo


This randomized experiment analyzes the effect of women policymakers on policymaking. In India, one-third of village councils had been randomly assigned as reserved for a women chief. They find that gender of the chief impacts policy preferences. Specifically, a female chief is more likely to devote public resources to issues that women are predominantly concerned about (e.g. drinking water) while men are more likely to focus on the concerns of other males (e.g. education). In one area (West Bengal) women chiefs where higher correlated with higher political participation amongst women.

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Policy Implications

This study suggests that gender makeup of a legislative body impacts the policy preferences of that body. Women legislators are more likely to support concerns stemming from women voters, while male legislators are more likely to focus on the needs of male voters. Additionally, the study lend evidence to the idea that more gender parity in government would increase voter turnout.

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