Pathbreakers? Women's Electoral Success and Future Political Participation


  • We thank three anonymous referees, Siddhartha Bandhyopadhyay, Melissa Dell, Rafael di Tella, Tarun Jain, Akshay Mangla, Anandi Mani, Massimo Morelli, Rohini Pande, Albert Saiz and numerous seminar and conference participants for helpful comments. Damian Clarke, Maya Shivakumar, Ahmad Wahdat and the staff of Paradigm Data Services provided excellent research assistance. We gratefully acknowledge financial support from CMPO (Bhalotra), MEC grants ECO2011-29762, ECO2014-55953 and Programa Ramón y Cajal 2014 (Clots-Figueras) and Harvard Business School (Iyer). Replication data for this article are available online. An earlier version of this article appeared as ‘Path-Breakers: How Does Women's Political Participation Respond to Electoral Success?’ IZA Discussion Paper 7771, November 2013.


We investigate whether the event of women being competitively elected as state legislators encourages subsequent political participation among women. Using a regression discontinuity design on Indian constituency level data, we find that female incumbents are more likely than male incumbents to re-contest and that there is a decline in the entry of new women candidates. This decline is most pronounced in states with entrenched gender bias and in male-headed parties, suggesting an intensification of barriers against women in these areas. Similar results for (mostly male) Muslim candidates indicate the presence of institutionalised demand-side barriers rather than gender-specific preferences and constraints.