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More is Better: The Influence of Collective Female Descriptive Representation on External Efficacy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 March 2007

Lonna Rae Atkeson
University of New Mexico
Nancy Carrillo
University of New Mexico


This study tests the hypothesis that collective descriptive representation has important benefits for strengthening and legitimizing democratic society. Specifically, we test whether increased proportions of collective female descriptive representation in the statehouse and the presence of a female state executive are important to female citizens' attitudes toward government responsiveness, or external efficacy. We hypothesize that an increase in female collective descriptive representation in the legislative and state executive branches of government will increase female citizens' external efficacy but will be unimportant to males. We pooled American National Election Studies (ANES) data from 1988 to 1998 and used ordered probit techniques to test the hypothesis. In addition to our main independent variable of interest, our model includes state political culture, dyadic descriptive representation, dyadic substantive representation, sociodemographics, political participation, strength of partisanship, and electoral dummy variables as controls. Our results confirm that higher levels of collective female descriptive representation promote higher values of external efficacy for female citizens, suggesting that collective female descriptive representation has important benefits to a democratic society.An earlier version of this article was presented at the American Political Science Association's Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California, August 30–September 2, 2001, and the International Society of Political Psychology, Seattle, Washington, July 1–4, 2000. We would like to thank the following people for their comments and support: Anthony Coveny, Randall Partin, and Cherie Maestas.

Research Article
© 2007 The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association

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