Quotas and Party Priorities: Direct and Indirect Effects of Quota Laws

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In light of increasing numbers of women in politics, extant research has examined the role of women in the parliamentary party on agenda-setting. This paper complements that literature by exploring the effect of a gendered institution theorized to promote both numbers of women and awareness of women’s interests: gender quota laws. I suggest that after a quota law, parties could have incentives to either reduce (backlash effect) or increase (salience effect) attention to women’s policy concerns. Using matching and regression methods with a panel data set of parties in advanced democracies, I find that parties in countries that implement a quota law devote more attention to social justice issues in their manifestos than similar parties in countries without a quota. Furthermore, the paper shows that this effect is driven entirely by the law itself. Contrary to expectations, quota laws are not associated with increases in women in my (short-term) sample; it is thus no surprise that no evidence of an indirect effect through numbers of women is found. I interpret the findings as evidence of quota contagion, whereby quotas cue party leaders to compete on gender equality issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)849-862
Number of pages14
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number4
Early online date11 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


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