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Incumbents' Interests and Gender Quotas


  • We are highly indebted to Joan Scott for inspiring us and for many discussions on the parity movement in France. We are grateful to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton for giving us the opportunity to start this project. Comments by Matt Jackson, Dean Lacy, Matthias Messner, Kira Sanbonmatsu, Gilles Serra, Ken Shepsle, Guido Tabellini, Jack Wright, four anonymous referees, and by the participants at various workshops are gratefully acknowledged. We thank Ji Li, Chloé Tergiman, and Violette Van Dyck for their assistance with the data as well as the Centre de Données Socio-Politiques for providing us with some of the data. Morelli gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the National Science Foundation (Grants SES-0213312 and SES-0519045) and the Deutsche Bank. Maniquet thanks the Belgian Program on Interuniversity Poles of Attraction initiated by the Belgian State, Prime Minister's Office, Science Policy Programming. Fréchette's research was partially supported by the Center for Experimental Social Science, the C.V. Starr Center, and the National Science Foundation (Grants SES-0519045 and SES-0721111). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the institutions supporting the project.

Guillaume R. Fréchette is assistant professor of economics, New York University, 19 West Fourth Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10012-9873 ( Francois Maniquet is professor of economics, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE), Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium ( Massimo Morelli is professor of political science and economics, Columbia University, 720 LAB, 420 W. 118th St., New York, NY 10027 (


The introduction of mandatory gender quotas in party lists is a reform that many countries have recently adopted or have been considering. The electoral system affects the incumbents' incentives to make such reforms, their details, and their effectiveness. We show that male incumbents can actually expect an increased incumbency advantage when gender quotas are introduced, if they are elected through single-member district majority rule. On the other hand, no expectation of male advantage can reduce the incumbents' fear of being replaced if they are elected through closed-list proportional representation. As France has both electoral systems, we validate the above argument using a formal model of constitutional design as well as an empirical analysis of the legislative elections in France, displaying the existence of male bias in the last three elections. We also show that parity may have Assembly composition effects and policy effects that vary with the electoral system.

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