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Gender, Incumbency and Party List Nominations

  • Stephen A. Meserve, Daniel Pemstein and William T. Bernhard


This study assesses how political parties’ candidate selection strategies influence women’s descriptive parliamentary representation. Focusing on proportional elections, it explores what determines whether parties place women in viable list positions. Evaluating party rankings at the individual level, it directly examines a mechanism – party nomination – central to prevailing explanations of empirical patterns in women’s representation. Moreover, it jointly evaluates how incumbency and gender affect nomination. This study uses European Parliament elections to compare a plethora of parties, operating under numerous institutions, in the context of a single legislature. It finds that gender differences in candidate selection are largely explained by incumbency bias, although party ideology and female labor force participation help explain which parties prioritize the placement of novice women.



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Department of Political Science, Texas Tech University (email:; Department of Criminal Justice and Political Science, North Dakota State University (email:; Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (email: We would like to thank our reviewers and seminar participants at the University of Illinois for helpful comments. This project was supported, in part, by the European Union Center at the University of Illinois, and by the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi. Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at:, and an online appendix is available at:



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Gender, Incumbency and Party List Nominations

  • Stephen A. Meserve, Daniel Pemstein and William T. Bernhard


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