Constitutions and the political agency of women

A cross-country study
JournalFeminist Economics
AuthorsSiobhan Austen, Astghik Mavisakalyan
PublishedSeptember 2015
PublisherTaylor & Francis
ISSN1354-5701 (Print), 1466-4372 (Online)
Number of Pages183-210

The underrepresentation of women in parliaments worldwide warrants attention to discern underlying sources. This study examines one potential source: the countries’ constitutions. Based on a large cross-country dataset from 2011, the study demonstrates that women’s representation in parliament is larger in countries with constitutional protection from gender-based discrimination. Baseline estimates suggest that the presence of such protection results in over a 3.5 percentage point increase in women’s share of parliamentary seats. The study probes some underlying mechanisms and shows that places with constitutional protection from gender-based discrimination are likely to have legislation directly targeting women’s underrepresentation. The results underscore the role of constitutional design in promoting women’s political agency.