Skip to main content

“Women Friendly” Spending? Welfare Spending and Women's Participation in the Economy and Politics

  • Nicole Detraz (a1) and Dursun Peksen (a1)

What effect do social welfare policies have on women's active involvement in the economy and politics? Though there is much policy and scholarly debate on a wide spectrum of socioeconomic and political outcomes of welfare spending, little research has explored the possible impact that social welfare policies have on one of the supposed major beneficiaries of such policies—women. Combining data on welfare spending in three areas—social security, health, and education—with data on women's labor force participation and share of seats in national legislatures, this article examines the extent to which welfare spending might affect women's economic and political status. The results from a panel of 97 countries for the years spanning 1990 to 2010 indicate that the government's fiscal commitment to social policies is positively related to female participation in the total labor force and national politics. The findings are robust to different model specifications, sample selection, and the use of instrumental variables. One major policy implication of the findings is that the government's fiscal commitment to key social welfare areas are likely to contribute to women's economic and political empowerment, which might in turn help address gender imbalances in the economy and political sphere.

Hide All
Abramovitz Mimi. 1996. Regulating the Lives of Women: Social Welfare Policy from Colonial Times to the Present. Boston: South End Press.
Alesina Alberto, Baqir Reza, and Easterly William. 1999. “Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 114 (4): 1243–84.
Alesina Alberto, and Spolaore Enrico. 1997. “On the Number and Size of Nations.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 112 (4): 1027–56.
Amenta Edwin. 1993. “The State of the Art in Welfare State Research on Social Spending Efforts in Capitalist Democracies since 1960.” American Journal of Sociology 99 (3): 750–63.
Anyanwu John C., and Erhijakpor Andrew E.O.. 2009. “Health Expenditures and Health Outcomes in Africa.” African Development Review 21 (2): 400433.
Baldacci Emanuele, Clements Benedict, Gupta Sanjeev, and Cui Qiang. 2008. “Social Spending, Human Capital, and Growth in Developing Countries.” World Development 36 (8): 1317–41.
Baldacci Emanuele, Guin-Siu Maria Teresa, and de Mello Luiz. 2003. “More on the Effectiveness of Public Spending on Health Care and Education: A Covariance Structure Model.” Journal of International Development 15: 709–25.
Beer Caroline. 2009. “Democracy and Gender Equality.” Studies in Comparative International Development 44: 212–27.
Berg-Schlosser Dirk, and Kersting Norbert, eds. 2003. Poverty and Democracy: Self-Help and Political Participation in Third World Cities. New York: Zed Books Ltd.
Bittman Michael, England Paula, , Folbre Nancy, Sayer Liana, and Matheson George. 2003. “When Does Gender Trump Money? Bargaining and Time in Household Work.” American Journal of Sociology 109 (1): 186214.
Bock Gisela, and Thane Patricia, eds. 1991. Maternity and Gender Policies: Women and the Rise of the European Welfare States, 1880s–1950s. New York: Routledge.
Bolzendahl Catherine. 2009. “Making the Implicit Explicit: Gender Influences on Social Spending in Twelve Industrialized Democracies, 1980–99.” Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society 16 (1): 4081.
Bolzendahl Catherine, and Brooks Clem. 2007. “Women's Political Representation and Welfare State Spending in 12 Capitalist Democracies.” Social Forces 85 (4): 1509–34.
Borchorst Annette. 1994. “The Scandinavian Welfare States—Patriarchal, Gender Neutral or Woman-Friendly?International Journal of Contemporary Sociology 31: 4567.
Brady David. 2005. “The Welfare State and Relative Poverty in Rich Western Democracies, 1967–1997.” Social Forces 83 (4): 1329–64.
Bratton Kathleen A., and Ray Leonard P.. 2002. “Descriptive Representation, Policy Outcomes, and Municipal Day-Care Coverage in Norway.” American Journal of Political Science 46: 428–37.
Brown David S., and Hunter Wendy. 2004. “Democracy and Human Capital Formation Education Spending in Latin America, 1980 to 1997.” Comparative Political Studies 37 (7): 842–64.
Burns Nancy, Schlozman Kay Lehman, and Verba Sidney. 2001. The Private Roots of Public Action: Gender, Equality, and Political Participation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Caiazza Amy. 2004. “Does Women's Representation in Elected Office Lead to Women-Friendly Policy? Analysis of State-Level Data.” Women and Politics 26: 3570.
Campbell Andrea L. 2005. How Policies Make Citizens: Senior Political Activism and the American Welfare State. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Cole Wade M. 2012. “Government Respect for Gendered Rights: The Effect of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on Women's Rights Outcomes, 1981–2004.” International Studies Quarterly 57 (2): 233–49.
Crompton Rosemary. 2006. Employment and the Family. The Reconfiguration of Work and Family Life in Contemporary Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Daly Mary. 2000. The Gender Division of Welfare: The Impact of the British and German Welfare States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Demery Lionel. 1996. “Gender and Public Social Spending: Disaggregating Benefit Incidence.” (accessed May 10, 2016).
Detraz Nicole, and Peksen Dursun. “The Effect of IMF Programs on Women's Economic and Political Rights.” International Interactions 42: 81105.
Duflo Esther. “Women Empowerment and Economic Development.” 2012. Journal of Economic Literature 50 (4): 1051–79.
Easterly William, and Levine Ross. 1997. “Africa's Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 112 (4): 1203–50.
Easterly William, and Rebelo Sergio. 1993. “Fiscal Policy and Economic Growth.” Journal of Monetary Economics 32 (3): 417–58.
Edin Kathryn, and Lein Laura. 1997. “Work, Welfare, and Single Mothers’ Economic Survival Strategies.” American Sociological Review 62 (2): 253–66.
Elson Diane. 2004. “Engendering Government Budgets in the Context of Globalization(s).” International Feminist Journal of Politics 6 (4): 623–42.
Farag Marwa, Nandakumar A. K., Wallack Stanley, Hodgkin Dominic, Gaumer Gary, and Erbil Can. 2013. “Health Expenditures, Health Outcomes and the Role of Good Governance.” International Journal of Health Care Finance Economics 13: 3352.
Flora Peter, and Heidenheimer Arnold J., eds. 1987. The Development of Welfare States in Europe and America. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Frankenberg Elizabeth, and Thomas Duncan. 2001. “Women's Health and Pregnancy Outcomes: Do Services Make a Difference?Demography 38 (2): 253–65.
Fraser Nancy. 1987. “Women, Welfare and the Politics of Need Interpretation.” Hypatia 2 (1): 103–21.
Gebregziabher Fiseha, and Niño-Zarazúa Miguel. 2014. “Social Spending and Aggregate Welfare in Developing and Transition Economies.” (accessed May 12, 2016).
Goetz Anne Marie. 2003. “Women's Education and Political Participation.” (accessed May 31, 2016).
Gornick Janet, Meyers Marcia, and Ross Katherin. 1997. “Supporting the Employment of Mothers: Policy Variation across Fourteen Welfare States.” Journal of European Social Policy 7: 4570.
Government of Scotland. 2013. “The Gender Impact of Welfare Reform August 2013 Equality and Tackling Poverty Analysis Communities ASD.” (accessed May 27, 2016).
Granato Jim, Inglehart Ronald, and Leblang David. 1996. “The Effect of Cultural Values on Economic Development: Theory, Hypotheses, and Some Empirical Tests.” American Journal of Political Science 40 (3): 607–31.
Gray Mark M., Kittilson Miki Caul, and Sandholtz Wayne. 2006. “Women and Globalization: A Study of 180 Countries, 1975–2000.” International Organization 60 (2):293333.
Gupta Sanjeev, and Verhoeven Marijn. 2001. “The Efficiency of Government Expenditure: Experiences from Africa.” Journal of Policy Modeling 23: 433–67.
Gupta Sanjeev, Verhoeven Marijn, and Tiongson Erwin R.. 2002. “The Effectiveness of Government Spending on Education and Health Care in Developing and Transition Economies.” European Journal of Political Economy 18 (4): 717–37.
Heltberg Rasmus, Simler Kenneth, and Tarp Finn. 2001. “Public Spending and Poverty in Mozambique.” (accessed May 12, 2016).
Hernes Helga Maria. 1987. Welfare State and Woman Power: Essays in State Feminism. Oslo: Norwegian University Press.
Hobson Barbara. 1990. “No Exit, No Voice: Women's Economic Dependency and the Welfare State.” Acta Sociologica 33: 235–49.
Holzner Claudio A. 2007. “The Poverty of Democracy: Neoliberal Reforms and Political Participation of the Poor in Mexico.” Latin American Politics and Society 49 (2): 87122.
Huber Evelyne, and Stephens John D.. 2001. Development and Crisis of the Welfare State: Parties and Policies in Global Markets. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Inman Phillip. 2014. “Spending Gap Won't Tackle Causes of Welfare Dependency, Say Critics.” The Guardian. March 19, 2014. (accessed July 28, 2016).
Iversen Torben, and Rosenbluth Frances. 2006. “The Political Economy of Gender: Explaining Cross-National Variation in the Gender Division of Labor and the Gender Voting Gap.” American Journal of Political Science 50 (1): 119.
Kasperkevic Jana. 2014. “Welfare Programs Shown to Reduce Poverty in America.” The Guardian. November 12, 2014. (accessed July 28, 2016).
Keefer Philip, and Khemani Stuti. 2003. “Democracy, Public Expenditures, and the Poor.” (accessed May 12, 2016).
Kimmel Jean. 1995. “The Effectiveness of Child-Care Subsidies in Encouraging the Welfare-to-Work Transition of Low-Income Single Mothers.” The American Economic Review 85 (2): 271–75.
Knack Stephen, and Keefer Philip. 1998. IRIS-3 File for International Country Risk Guide Data Codebook. College Park: PRS Group.
Kolberg Jon Eivind. 1991. “The Gender Dimension of the Welfare State.” International Journal of Sociology 21 (2): 119148.
Korpi Walter. 2000. “Faces of Inequality: Gender, Class and Patterns of Inequalities in Different Types of Welfare States.” Social Politics 7: 127–91.
Kugler Jacek, and Tammen Ronald L., eds. 2012. The Performance of Nations. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Lewis Jane. 1992. “Gender and the Development of Welfare Regimes.” Journal of European Social Policy 3: 159–73.
Lewis Jane. 1993. “Women, Work, Family and Social Policies in Europe.” In Women and Social Policies in Europe., ed. Lewis Jane. Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar, 124.
Marino Maria Rosaria, Romanelli Marzia, and Tasso Martino. 2013. “Dynamic Labor Supply with Taxes: The Case of Italian Couples.” (accessed May 15, 2016).
Marshall Monty, Jaggers Keith, and Gurr Ted. 2012. “Polity IV Project.” Center for Systemic Peace. (accessed September 7,2017).
Mason Andrew D., and King Elizabeth M.,. 2001. Engendering Development through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources, and Voice. A World Bank policy research report. Washington, DC: World Bank. (accessed August 31, 2017).
Misra Joya. 2003. “Women as Agents in Welfare State Development: A Cross-National Analysis of Family Allowance Adoption.” Socioeconomic Review 1: 185214.
Morrison Andrew, Raju Dhushyanth, and Sinha Nistha. 2007. “Gender Equality, Poverty and Economic Growth.” (accessed May 27, 2016).
Murdie Amanda, and Peksen Dursun. 2015. “Women's Rights INGO Shaming and the Government Respect for Women's Rights.” The Review of International Organizations 10: 122.
Neumayer Eric, and Soysa Indra De. 2007. “Globalization, Women's Economic Rights and Forced Labour.” World Economy 30 (10): 1510–35.
Norris Pippa, and Inglehart Ronald. 2001. “Women and Democracy: Cultural Obstacles to Equal Representation.” Journal of Democracy 12: 126–40.
O'Regan Valerie. 2000. Gender Matters: Female Policymakers’ Influence in Industrialized Nations. London: Praeger.
Orloff Ann Shola. 2002. “Women's Employment and Welfare Regimes: Globalization, Export Orientation and Social Policy in Europe and North America.”$file/orloff.pdf (accessed May 8, 2016).
Peksen Dursun. 2011. “Foreign Military Intervention and Women's Rights.” Journal of Peace Research 48 (4): 455–68.
Poe Steven C., Tate Neal, and Keith Linda C., 1999. “Repression of the Human Right to Personal Integrity Revisited.” International Studies Quarterly 43 (2): 291313.
Rayp Glenn, and van de Sijpe Nicholas. 2007. “Measuring and Explaining Government Efficiency in Developing Countries.” Journal of Development Studies 43 (2): 360–81.
Richards David L., and Gelleny Ronald. 2007. “Women's Status and Economic Globalization.” International Studies Quarterly 51 (4): 855–76.
Rosenbluth Frances, Salmond Rob, and Thies Michael F.. 2006. “Welfare Works: Explaining Female Legislative Representation.” Politics & Gender 2 (2): 165–92.
Sabarwal Shwetlena, Sinha Nistha, and Buvinic Mayra. 2010. “How Do Women Weather Economic Shocks? A Review of the Evidence.” (accessed May 27, 2016).
Sainsbury Diane, ed. 1994. Gendering Welfare States. New York: SAGE Publications.
Schultz T. Paul. 1999. “Health and Schooling Investments in Africa.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 13 (3): 6788.
Shvedova Nadezhda. 2005. “Obstacles to Women's Participation in Parliament.” In Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers, ed. Ballington Julie and Karam Azza. Stockholm: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 3392.
Summers Lawrence H. 1994. “Investing in All the People: Educating Women in Developing Countries.” EDI Seminar Paper No. 45. (accessed April 29, 2016).
Tanzi Vito. 1992. “Structural Factors and Tax Revenue in Developing Countries: A Decade of Evidence.” In Open Economies: Structural Adjustment and Agriculture, ed. Goldin Ian and Alan Winters L.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 267–85.
Taydas Zeynep, and Peksen Dursun. 2012. “Can States Buy Peace? Social Welfare Spending and Civil Conflicts.” Journal of Peace Research 49 (2): 273–87.
UN General Assembly. 2011. “Women and Political Participation.” (accessed June 1, 2016).
UN Women. 2015. “Progress of the World's Women 2015–2016: Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights.” (accessed April 29, 2016).
United Nations Development Programme. 2015. “Human Development Report 2015: Work for Human Development.” (accessed December 14, 2015).
Wilson Elizabeth. 1977. Women and the Welfare State. London: Tavistock Publications.
World Bank. 2015. World Development Indicators. Washington, DC: World Bank.
World Bank. 2016. “Proportion of Seats Held by Women in National Parliaments.” (accessed April 18, 2016).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Politics & Gender
  • ISSN: 1743-923X
  • EISSN: 1743-9248
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-gender
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Detraz and Peksen supplementary material
Online Abstract

 Word (14 KB)
14 KB
Supplementary materials

Detraz and Peksen supplementary material
Detraz and Peksen supplementary material 1

 Word (36 KB)
36 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 38 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 234 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 25th October 2017 - 17th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.