Women Lawmakers Perform Better Than Their Male Counterparts, Concludes Study

by Aruna on Sep 19 2009 9:25 AM

Women lawmaker in Congress introduce more bills, attract more co-sponsors and bring home more money for their districts than their male counterparts do, concludes study.

The study was conducted by Stanford University and the University of Chicago researchers.

The study, accessed by Politico, examined the performance of House members between 1984 and 2004, and found that women delivered roughly nine percent more discretionary spending for their districts than men.

While there are obviously variables beyond gender - seniority, party affiliation, majority/minority status and the differing priorities of a freshman and a veteran lawmaker - the researchers say they've accounted for those in making their male-to-female comparisons.

The researchers also found that women introduced more legislation than men who served in their same districts, often hitting the ground running in their first terms.

"We find that, on average, women sponsor about three bills more per Congress per term than their male counterparts. They co-sponsor more bills than other members, and they also obtain more co-sponsors for their own bills," said one of the researchers.

Since 1789, women have constituted just two percent of the total congressional population. The ratio of female to male representatives has increased in recent years, but the pace is still fairly glacial: Nearly 17 percent of House members are women today, compared with about 3 percent in 1979.

Researchers say the small number of female members may have something to do with their effectiveness. Women who run and win are likely the most politically ambitious and talented of their pool, having potentially overcome hurdles including voter bias and self-doubt about their ability to win.

Female candidates also tend to attract more challengers. Politically eligible women tend to doubt their ability to get elected and raise money more than men do, multiple studies have indicated.

Once women get to Capitol Hill, those hurdles may drive them to perform better, on average, than male counterparts who have faced a less contentious road.