Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

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 (
Hide All
Aries Elizabeth. 1976. “Interaction Patterns and Themes of Male, Female, and Mixed Groups.” Small Group Behavior 7: 718.
Aries Elizabeth. 1998. “Gender Differences in Interaction: A Reexamination.” In Sex Differences and Similarities in Communication: Critical Essays and Empirical Investigations of Sex and Gender in Interaction, eds. Canary Daniel J. and Dindia Kathryn. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2136.
Baron Reuben M., and Kenny David A.. 1986. “Moderator-Mediator Variables Distinction in Social Psychological Research: Conceptual, Strategic, and Statistical Considerations.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51 (6): 1173–82.
Bouas Kelly S., and Komorita S. S.. 1996. “Group Discussion and Cooperation in Social Dilemmas.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 22: 1144–50.
Bowers William J., Steiner Benjamin D., and Sandys Marla. 2001. “Death Sentencing in Black and White: An Empirical Analysis of Jurors’ Race and Jury Racial Composition.” University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 3: 171275.
Burns Nancy, Schlozman Kay Lehman, and Verba Sidney. 2001. The Private Roots of Public Action: Gender, Equality, and Political Participation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bryan Frank M. 2004. Real Democracy: The New England Town Meeting and How it Works. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Carlock C. Jesse, and Martin Patricia Y.. 1977. “Sex Composition and the Intensive Group Experience.” Social Work 22: 2732.
Carroll Susan J., ed. 2001. The Impact of Women in Public Office. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Chambers Simone. 1996. Reasonable Democracy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Chatman Jennifer A., and O'Reilly Charles A.. 2004. “Asymmetric Reactions to Work Group Sex Diversity among Men and Women.” Academy of Management Journal 47: 193208.
Choi Seung-Whan. 2009. “The Effect of Outliers on Regression Analysis: Regime Type and Foreign Direct Investment.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 4: 153–65.
Cohen Joshua. l989. “Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy.” In The Good Polity, eds. Hamlin Alan P. and Pettit Phillip. Oxford: Blackwell, 1734
Craig Jane M., and Sherif Carolyn W.. 1986. “The Effectiveness of Men and Women in Problem-solving Groups as a Function of Gender Composition.” Sex Roles 14 (7/8): 453–66.
Cramer Walsh Katherine. 2007. Talking about Race: Community Dialogues and the Politics of Difference. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Croson Rachel, and Gneezy Uri. 2009. “Gender Differences in Preferences.” Journal of Economic Literature 47 (2): 448–74.
Crowder-Meyer Melody. 2007. “Gender Differences in Policy Preferences and Priorities.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago. (accessed May 19, 2011).
Crowder-Meyer Melody. 2010. “Local Parties, Local Candidates, and Women's Representation: How County Parties Affect Who Runs for and Wins Political Office.” Ph.D. diss. Princeton University.
Devine Dennis J., Clayton Laura, Dunford Benjamin B., Seying Rasmy, and Price Jennifer. 2001. “Jury Decision Making: 45 Years of Empirical Research on Deliberating Groups.” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 73 (3): 622727.
Dindia Kathryn, and Allen Mike. 1992. “Sex Differences in Self-disclosure: A Meta-analysis.” Psychological Bulletin 112: 106–24.
Eagly Alice H. 1987. Sex Differences in Social Behavior: A Social-Role Interpretation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Ellis Donald G. 1982. “Relational Stability and Change in Women's Consciousness-raising Groups.” Women's Studies in Communication 5: 7787.
Esterling Kevin M., Fung Archon, and Lee Taeku. 2009. “How Much Disagreement is Good for Democratic Deliberation? The California Speaks Health Care Reform Experiment.” Presented at the Annual West Coast Experimental Political Science Conference, Del Mar, CA.
Fishkin James S. 1995. The Voice of the People. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Fishkin James S., He Baogang, Luskin Robert C., and Siu Alice. 2010. “Deliberative Democracy in an Unlikely Place: Deliberative Polling in China.” British Journal of Political Science 40: 435–48.
Fiske Susan T. 2010. “Venus and Mars, or Down to Earth: Stereotypes and Realities of Gender Differences.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 5 (6): 688–92
Fraser Nancy. 1992. “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy.” In Habermas and the Public Sphere, ed. Calhoun Craig. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 109–42.
Frohlich Norman, and Oppenheimer Joe. 1990. “Choosing Justice in Experimental Democracies with Production.” American Political Science Review 84 (2): 461–77.
Frohlich Norman, and Oppenheimer Joe. 1992. Choosing Justice: An Experimental Approach to Ethical Theory. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Frohlich Norman, Oppenheimer Joe, and Eavy Cheryl, 1987. “Laboratory Results on Rawls's Distributive Justice.” British Journal of Political Science 17: 121.
Fung Archon. 2003. “Deliberation Where You Least Expect It: Citizen Participation in Government.” Connections (Fall): 30–33.
Fung Archon. 2007. “Democratic Theory and Political Science: A Pragmatic Method of Constructive Engagement.” American Political Science Review 101: 443–58.
Gastil John, Deess E. Pierre, Weiser Phil, and Meade Jordan. 2008. “Jury Service and Electoral Participation: A Test of the Participation Hypothesis.” Journal of Politics 70: 116.
Giles Howard, Mulac Anthony, Bradac James J., and Johnson Patricia. 1987. “Speech Accommodation Theory: The First Decade and Beyond.” Communication Yearbook 10: 1348.
Grunenfelder Rita, and Baechtiger Andre. 2007. “Gendered Deliberation? How Men and Women Deliberate in Legislatures.” Presented at the European Consortium for Political Research Joint Sessions, Helsinki.
Gutmann Amy, and Thompson Dennis. 1996. Democracy and Disagreement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Gutmann Amy, and Thompson Dennis. 2004. Why Deliberative Democracy? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Habermas Jürgen. 1989. The Structural Transformation of The Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Trans. Burger T. with the assistance of Lawrence F.. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Habermas Jürgen. 1996. Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Hannagan Rebecca J., and Larimer Christopher. 2011. “Out-group Threat and Gender Balance in Policymaking Groups.” Presented at the 2nd European Conference on Politics and Gender, Budapest.
Hansen Susan B. 1997. “Talking about Politics: Gender and Contextual Effects on Political Proselytizing.” Journal of Politics 59: 73103.
Hastie Reid, Penrod Steven D., and Pennington Nancy. 1983. Inside the Jury. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Hickerson Andrea, and Gastil John. 2008. “Assessing the Difference Critique of Deliberation: Gender, Emotion, and the Jury Experience.” Communication Theory 18: 281303.
Huckfeldt Robert, and Sprague John. 1995. Citizens, Politics, and Social Communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Humphreys Macartan, Masters William A., and Sandbu Martin E.. 2006. “Democratic Deliberations: Results from a Field Experiment in São Tomé and Príncipe.” World Politics 58: 583622.
Imai Kosuke, Keele Luke, and Tingley Dustin. 2010. “A General Approach to Causal Mediation Analysis.” Psychological Methods 15 (4): 309–34.
Jacobs Lawrence R., Cook Fay L., and Delli Carpini Michael X.. 2009. Talking Together: Public Deliberation and Political Participation in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Johnson Cathryn. 1994. “Gender, Legitimate Authority, and Leader-Subordinate Conversations.” American Sociological Review 59: 122–35.
Johnson Richard A., and Schulman Gary I.. 1989. “Gender-role Composition and Role Entrapment in Decision-making Groups.” Gender and Society 3: 355–72.
Kameda Tatsuya 1991. “Procedural Influence in Small-group Decision Making: Deliberation Style and Assigned Decision Rule.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 61: 245–56.
Kanter Rosabeth M. 1977a. Men and Women of the Corporation. New York: Basic.
Kanter Rosabeth M. 1977b. Work and Family in the United States: A Critical Review and Policy Agenda. Frontiers of Social Science Series. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Kaplan Martin F., and Miller Charles E.. 1987. “Group Decision-making and Normative versus Informational Influence: Effects of Type of Issue and Assigned Decision Rule.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 53: 306–13.
Karpowitz Christopher F., Raphael Chad, and Hammond IV Allen S.. 2009. “Deliberative Democracy and Inequality: Two Cheers for Enclave Deliberation among the Disempowered.” Politics and Society 37: 576615.
Kathlene Lyn. 1994. “Power and Influence in State Legislatures: The Interaction of Gender and Position in Committee Hearing Debates.” American Political Science Review 88: 560–76.
Krook Mona L. 2009. Quotas for Women in Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.
Macedo Stephen, Alex-Assensoh Yvette, Berry Jeffrey M., Brintnall Michael, Campbell David E., Fraga Luis Ricardo, Fung Archon, et al. 2005. Democracy at Risk: How Political Choices Undermine Citizen Participation, and What We Can Do about It. Washington, DC: Brookings Press.
Mansbridge Jane J. 1983. Beyond Adversary Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Mansbridge Jane J. 1999. “Should Blacks Represent Blacks and Women Represent Women? A Contingent ‘Yes.’Journal of Politics 61: 628–57.
Mansbridge Jane J., Hartz-Karp Janette, Amengual Matthew, and Gastil John. 2006. “Norms of Deliberation: An Inductive Study.” Journal of Public Deliberation 2 (1): 7293.
Massie Tajuana, Johnson Susan W., and Gubala Sara M.. 2002. “The Influence of Gender and Race on Judicial Decisions in the United States Courts of Appeals.” Presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Meeting, Chicago.
Mathis Jerome. 2011. “Deliberation with Evidence.” American Political Science Review 105: 516–29.
Maltz Daniel, and Borker Ruth. 1982. “A Cultural Approach to Male-Female Miscommunication.” In Language and Social Identity, ed. Gumperz John. New York: Cambridge University Press, 281312.
McCarrick Anne K., Manderscheid Ronald W., and Silbergeld Sam. 1981. “Gender Differences in Competition and Dominance during Married-couples Group Therapy.” Social Psychology Quarterly 44: 164–77.
McDermott Rose. 2011. “Internal and External Validity.” In Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Political Science, eds. Druckman James N., Green Donald P., Kuklinski James H., and Lupia Arthur. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2740.
Mendelberg Tali. 2002. “The Deliberative Citizen: Theory and Evidence.” In Political Decision-making, Deliberation, and Participation, ed. Delli Carpini Michael X.. San Diego: Elsevier Science, 151–93.
Mendelberg Tali, and Karpowitz Christopher F.. 2007. “Deliberating about Justice.” In Deliberation, Participation, and Democracy: Can the People Govern?, ed. Rosenberg Shawn. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 101–29.
Merelman Richard M., Streich Greg, and Martin Paul. 1998. “Unity and Diversity in American Political Culture: An Exploratory Study of the National Conversation on American Pluralism and Identity.” Political Psychology 19: 781807.
Miller Judi B. 1985. “Patterns of Control in Same-sex Conversations: Differences between Women and Men.” Women's Studies in Communication 8: 6299.
Morton Rebecca M., and Williams Kenneth C.. 2010. Experimental Political Science and the Study of Causality. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Moscovici Serge. 1980. “Toward a Theory of Conversion Behavior.” Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 13: 209–39.
Moscovici Serge. 1985. “Innovation and Minority Influence.” In The Handbook of Social Psychology, Vol. 2, eds. Lindzey G. and Aronson E.. New York: Random House, 347412.
Neblo Michael A., Esterling Kevin M., Kennedy Ryan P., Lazer David M.J., and Sokhey Anand E.. 2010. “Who Wants to Deliberate—and Why?American Political Science Review 104: 566–83.
Nemeth Charlan J. 1977. “Interactions between Jurors as a Function of Majority vs. Unanimity Decision Rules.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 7: 3856.
Pateman Carole. 1970. Participation and Democratic Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Piliavin Jane A., and Martin Rachel R.. 1978. “The Effects of the Sex Composition of Groups on Style of Social Interaction.” Sex Roles 4: 281–96.
Rapoport Ronald B. 1981. “The Sex Gap in Political Persuading: Where the ‘Structured Principle’ Works.” American Journal of Political Science 25 (1): 3248.
Reskin Barbara F., McBrier Debra B., and Kmec Julie A.. 1999. “The Determinants and Consequences of Workplace Sex and Race Composition.” Annual Review of Sociology 25: 335–61.
Ridgeway Cecilia L. 1982. “Status in Groups: The Importance of Motivation.” American Sociological Review 47: 7688.
Ridgeway Cecilia L., and Smith-Lovin Lynn. 1999. “The Gender System and Interaction.” Annual Review of Sociology 25: 191216.
Rosenberg Shawn. 2007. “Rethinking Democratic Deliberation: The Limits and Potential of Citizen Participation.” Polity 39: 335–60.
Ryfe David M. 2005. “Does Deliberative Democracy Work?Annual Review of Political Science 8: 4971.
Sanders Lynn. 1997. “Against Deliberation.” Political Theory 25 (3): 347–76.
Sapiro Virginia. 2003. “Theorizing Gender in Political Psychology Research.” In Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, eds. Sears David O., Huddy Leonie, and Jervis Robert. New York: Oxford University Press, 601–36.
Shapiro Robert Y., and Mahajan Harpreet. 1986. “Gender Differences in Policy Preferences: A Summary of Trends from the 1960s to the 1980s.” Public Opinion Quarterly 50 (1): 4246.
Skocpol Theda. 1992. Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Smith-Lovin Lynn, and Brody Charles. 1989. “Interruptions in Group Discussions: The Effects of Gender and Group Composition.” American Sociological Review 54: 424–35.
Strodtbeck Fred L., James Rita M., and Hawkins Charles. 1957. “Social Status in Jury Deliberations.” American Sociological Review 22: 713–19.
Sunstein Cass. 2002. Designing Democracy: What Constitutions Do. London: Oxford University Press.
Tannen Deborah. 1990. You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. New York: Ballantine Books.
Thompson Dennis F. 2008. “Deliberative Democratic Theory and Empirical Political Science.” Annual Review of Political Science 11:497520.
van Knippenberg Daan, and Schippers Michaela C.. 2007. “Work Group Diversity.” Annual Review of Psychology 58: 515–41.
Williams Melissa S. 2000. “The Uneasy Alliance of Group Representation in Deliberative Democracy.” In Citizenship in Diverse Societies, eds. Kymlicka Will and Norman Wayne. London: Oxford University Press, 124–54.
Young Iris M. 1996. “Communication and the Other: Beyond Deliberative Democracy.” In Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of The Political, ed. Benhabib Seyla. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 120–36
Young Iris M. 2001. “Activist Challenges to Deliberative Democracy.” Political Theory 29: 670–90.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Karpowitz et al. supplementary material

 PDF (2.4 MB)
2.4 MB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 134
Total number of PDF views: 510 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 3047 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.