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Gender Inequality in Deliberative Participation


Can men and women have equal levels of voice and authority in deliberation or does deliberation exacerbate gender inequality? Does increasing women's descriptive representation in deliberation increase their voice and authority? We answer these questions and move beyond the debate by hypothesizing that the group's gender composition interacts with its decision rule to exacerbate or erase the inequalities. We test this hypothesis and various alternatives, using experimental data with many groups and links between individuals’ attitudes and speech. We find a substantial gender gap in voice and authority, but as hypothesized, it disappears under unanimous rule and few women, or under majority rule and many women. Deliberative design can avoid inequality by fitting institutional procedure to the social context of the situation.

Corresponding author
Christopher F. Karpowitz is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Brigham Young University, P.O. Box 25545, Provo, UT 84602 (
Tali Mendelberg is Associate Professor, Department of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544 (
Lee Shaker is Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Mailstop COMM, Portland, OR 97201 (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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