Published: June 19, 2020

By: Jennifer Wolak, University of Colorado Boulder 

Published: 26 February 2019


When women are represented on the campaign trail and in elected office, women in the electorate have been shown to report greater engagement in politics. However, most evidence of the effects of descriptive representation on women's empowerment is drawn from surveys from the 1980s and 1990s. I update these studies to consider how women candidates and officeholders affect the political knowledge, interest, and participation of other women in the electorate. Using responses from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study from 2006 to 2014, I find that both men and women are more politically knowledgeable when represented by women in Congress and in state government. Considering political engagement, I find little evidence that women are more politically interested or participatory when residing in places with more female officeholders or candidates. Women's political presence as candidates and officeholders does not uniquely encourage other women to engage in political life.

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