Tokenism or Agency? The Impact of Women's Reservations on Village Democracies in South India

Radu Ban, Vijayendra Rao
2008 Economic development and cultural change  
There is increasing interest in whether improving the participation of women in government will lead to more gender equality. We test this with data collected from South India, using a natural experiment that randomly reserves 1/3rd of all presidencies in democratically elected village councils (panchayats) for women candidates. Previous research has found that such "reservations" result in policy decisions that are closer to the preferences of women, while qualitative research has argued,
more » ... ch has argued, conversely, that it results in token appointments where women are appointed by elites, and are poorly educated and aged. We do not ...nd evidence in favor of the tokenism hypothesis, ...nding that women leaders are drawn from the upper end of the quality distribution of women. However, we ...nd that female leaders perform no di¤erently than male leaders. Our results also indicate that institutional factors matter much more for women than for men -women perform better than men in situations where they have more political experience, live in villages less dominated by upper castes, and in states where the panchayat system is more mature.
doi:10.1086/533551 fatcat:tobd2lwlhnauvcfohdis2tl57e