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What Explains Low Female Political Representation? Evidence from Survey Experiments in Japan

  • Rieko Kage (a1), Frances M. Rosenbluth (a2) and Seiki Tanaka (a3)

Few democratic countries have lower rates of female political representation than Japan, making it an excellent place to seek clues for female underrepresentation. We were surprised to find, based on three experimental surveys, that Japanese voters do not harbor particularly negative attitudes toward female politicians. The problem instead appears to be that women are reluctant to run for office because of socially mandated family roles. An implication of our study is that gender equality in political representation will likely founder in countries with electoral systems that require around-the-clock constituency service and legislative work, at least until citizens no longer have gendered expectations about time-consuming family obligations.

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The authors are shown in alphabetical order. We would like to thank Rafaela Dancygier, Shana Gadarian, Richard Herrmann, Yusaku Horiuchi, Greg Huber, David Laitin, Margaret Levi, Liza Mügge, Megumi Naoi, Margaret Peters, Spencer Piston, Ken Scheve, Rachel Silbermann, Teppei Yamamoto, Yuki Yanai, participants of the Syracuse University Moynihan Research Workshop, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments. We also thank Fumie Kawashima, Etsuko Sano, and Junko Takami at Nikkei Research for their highly professional support and Mayu Sugiyama, Asako Takashima, Hikaru Yamagishi, and Miranda Weinland for their excellent research assistance. This project was funded by the Yale Council on East Asian Studies, the Center for Global Partnership of the Japan Foundation, and the Murata Science Foundation. The human subject protocol of the research was evaluated by the Syracuse University and Kobe University.

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