Regions Governed by Women MLAs Lead in Economic Growth: Study

New research states that regions with women legislators tend to outperform those led by men. 

Published
India
2 min read
A new study has found that women legislators achieve greater economic growth than their male counterparts. 
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The passing of the historic Women’s Reservation Bill – which instructed the reservation of 33 percent seats for women in the Lok Sabha – in 2010 was a gamechanger for women politicians as well as women aspiring to enter the political arena.

However, eight years later, a June 2018 survey published by Inter-Parliamentary Union ranks India 147 on a list of 193 countries in terms of female participation in the Upper and Lower Houses of the Parliament.

Data: June 2018 Inter-Parliamentary Union survey.
Data: June 2018 Inter-Parliamentary Union survey.
(Infographic: The Quint)

Of the 542 seats in Lok Sabha, women hold only 64, which is approximately 12 percent. In the Rajya Sabha, women hold only 29 of the available 244 seats.

Nonetheless, research being conducted at United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) has cause to believe that there is significantly higher economic growth in constituencies that elect women. Based on data available, authors Thushyanthan Baskaran, Sonia Bhalotra, Brian Min, and Yogesh Uppa examined 4,265 state assembly constituencies during the period of 1992-2012 that spanned four elections. This period was marked by both economic growth as well as an increased share of seats won by women in the state legislative assembly. It was found that women legislators in India raise economic performance in their constituencies by about 1.8 percentage (points per year) more than male legislators.

Data: June 2018 Inter-Parliamentary Union survey.
Data: June 2018 Inter-Parliamentary Union survey.
(Infographic: The Quint)

Night Lights

Using “night lights” – ie satellite imagery of the earth at night – authors overlaid a map of Indian constituencies in order to create “constituency level light-output data”. Correspondence with state-level GDP revealed that women legislators had in fact raised economic growth in their constituencies.

The Markers of Difference

Differences in men and women were explored in corruption, efficiency, and motivation – all of which have been linked to economic growth.

As per the research, women are less likely to have criminal charges pending against them and do not partake in corrupt practices. The research also states that women are more likely to be efficient at creating an infrastructure for growth, which authors prove through their empirical study on road projects. Since state governments allocate resources, they have vested interest to favor aligned legislators, as as long as women manage resources effectively they reinforce growth.

If clean governance is an important reason that women-led constituencies experience higher growth, we may expect that women make a larger difference in institutional environments where (male-dominated) corruption is pervasive .
‘Women legislators and economic performance’ research paper, United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research

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