Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 985: Gender Quotas and the Crisis of the Mediocre Man: Theory and Evidence from Sweden

Timothy Besley , Olle Folke (), Torsten Persson () and Johanna Rickne ()
Additional contact information
Timothy Besley: London School of Economics
Olle Folke: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: and Columbia University, New York
Torsten Persson: Institute for International Economic Studies, Postal: Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm
Johanna Rickne: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: and Columbia University, New York

Abstract: Efforts to increase female political representation are often thought to be at odds with meritocracy. This paper develops a theoretical framework and an empirical analysis to examine this idea. We show how the survival concerns of a mediocre male party leadership can create incentives for gender imbalance and more incompetent men in office. The predictions are tested with data on candidates in Swedish municipalities over seven elections (1988-2010), where we use administrative data on labor-market performance to craete a measure of the competence of politicians. We investigate the effects of the "zipper" quota, requiring party groups to alternate male and female names on the ballot, unilaterally implemented by the Social Democratic party in 1993. Far from being at odds with meritocracy, this quota increased the competence of male politicians where it raised the share of female representation the most.

Keywords: Gender quota; Competence; Political Selection

JEL-codes: H70; J16

62 pages, November 7, 2013

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