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Does Care Experience Affect Policy Interests? Male Legislators, Parental Leave, and Political Priorities in Sweden

  • Helena Olofsdotter Stensota (a1)

A central argument in theories on women's political interests has been that the sexual division of labor, inter alia, gives women greater experience of responsibility for the care of others, especially children, which in turn influences their political attitudes. However, the specifics of this claim have not been sufficiently examined in prior literature. By applying unique data on Swedish legislators’ subjective policy preferences and use of their parental leave over time, this article explores empirically whether the personal roles of members of parliament (MPs) in reproduction affect their political preferences, regardless of their sex. The analysis reveals that men's interest in social policy tends to increase after being on parental leave while in office, whereas women's interest in social and family policy remains strong, regardless. This finding might indicate a care experience mechanism at work, pertinent also to men, but with a possibly shallower content. The analysis raises the question: are care issues, previously seen as women's issues, now becoming human issues? It further contributes to the discussion on ways to measure gender other than using sex as proxy.

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Politics & Gender
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