Gender and Representation: Economic Performance and the Emergence of Women in State Politics

Project Abstract

A plethora of literature in gender and representation has been devoted to understanding disparities that occur during campaigns. More recently, the shift has been toward candidate emergence and the decision of individual women to run in the United States. In this vein, I am curious whether women are likely to run for office following times of economic prosperity or disparity, respectively. I hypothesize that when the state of the economy is generally improving in terms of increasing GDP per capita and falling unemployment rates, more women will emerge to run for office. In times of better economic performance, I argue that voters will show more interest in a broader range of topics besides those that will directly affect their personal economic well-being. This will happen because they feel safer in their economic position. I suggest that this will lead to more women feeling encouraged to run for office because they anticipate a lower probability of winning. This may be attributable to asymmetrical partisan gender gaps and increased confidence to run on platforms typically supported by female politicians like issues affecting women, children, and families, and the promotion of the arts, rather than an economic focus typical to male campaigns. I analyzed state level data from 2009 to 2018 looking at state GDP per capita, unemployment rate by state, incumbency, and the number of women running for state executive in each state. I find initial support for part of the hypothesis. Unemployment rates seem to have a statistically significant and negative effect on female candidate emergence. GDP per capita was a statistically significant measure, however this measure did not directly play a role in the relationship between candidate emergence. The results of this study offer insight and speculation into female candidate emergence and more generally for understanding gender and representation.


Conference name: Midwest Political Science Association Annual Confernce

Dates: April 16-19, 2020

Sponsoring body: Midwest Political Science Association

Conference website:

Funding Type

Travel Grant

Academic College

College of Humanities and Fine Arts


Political Science and Sociology






Drew Seib, PhD

Academic College

College of Humanities and Fine Arts

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