Journal of Public Management & Social Policy


This paper tests whether women’s descriptive representation in American state legislatures explains variance in policies relevant to women. The relationship between women’s representation and policy is estimated, controlling for alternative explanations of policy adoption including learning from neighboring and politically-similar states, internal economic and political conditions, and state demographics. Following prior research, a single equation instrumental variables model is used to link descriptive and substantive representation, but results do not support the use of a model with endogenous covariates. A simpler model specification demonstrates that women’s descriptive representation in state legislatures improves economic policy but not health policy outcomes. Political party confounds the relationship between gender and health policy outcomes. This paper contributes to the literature by: Using a broader measure of policy outcomes rather than dichotomous measures, examining women’s representation in both executive and legislative branches, demonstrating the role of political party, and linking women’s descriptive and substantive representation.



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