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Women Want an Answer! Field Experiments on Elected Officials and Gender Bias

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 August 2020

Gabriele Magni
Department of Political Science and International Relations, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Zoila Ponce de Leon*
Politics Department, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:


Are elected officials more responsive to men than women inquiring about access to government services? Women face discrimination in many realms of politics, but evidence is limited on whether such discrimination extends to interactions between women and elected officials. In recent years, several field experiments have examined public officials’ responsiveness. The majority focused on racial bias in the USA, while the few experiments outside the USA were usually single-country studies. We explore gender bias with the first large-scale audit experiment in five countries in Europe (France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Netherlands) and six in Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Uruguay). A citizen alias whose gender is randomized contacts members of parliament about unemployment benefits or healthcare services. The results are surprising. Legislators respond significantly more to women (+3% points), especially in Europe (+4.3% points). In Europe, female legislators in particular reply substantially more to women (+8.4% points).

Research Article
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Experimental Research Section of the American Political Science Association

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The authors would like to thank Cecilia Martinez-Garrardo and Anna Bassi for their constant support during the initial stages of this project. They are also grateful to Luke Chanarin and Bilyana Petrova for reading different versions of the manuscript, as well as the participants in the European Political Science Association Meeting in Milan, Italy, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Finally, they would like to thank Beatriz Rey and Jelle Koedam for their help with translation. The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest. They have no affiliations with or involvement in any organization or entity with any financial or non-financial interest in the subject matter or materials discussed in this manuscript. The data, code, and any additional materials required to replicate all analyses in this article are available at the Journal of Experimental Political Science Dataverse within the Harvard Dataverse Network, at: under: Magni and Ponce de Leon, 2020.


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