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How Women's Political Representation affects Spending on Family Benefits

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 January 2017

Department of Government, University of Vienna, Rooseveltplatz 3/1, 1090 Vienna, Austria email:


Recent research finds that women's political representation correlates with higher social expenditures. This paper makes two more specific predictions regarding family benefits. First, women voters and politicians are likely to prefer in-kind benefits to cash transfers. This is because the provision of childcare does more than money can do to ameliorate the double burden of work and family duties, thus strengthening women's autonomy. As a consequence female political representation should correlate with spending on in-kind family benefits, but not with expenditures on cash transfers. Second, the pressure on politicians to provide childcare services should be greater when there are higher levels of female participation in the labour force. Assuming that women politicians are more responsive to such demands, we should see a positive interaction effect between female labour force participation and women's political representation on in-kind spending. An analysis of public expenditures for family benefits in 27 OECD nations between 1980 and 2011 bears out both propositions.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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