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Persistence of Incumbents and Female Access to Political Positions

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The persistence of incumbents is often assumed to hinder female access to political positions. The argument is that in a context where incumbents are predominantly men and enjoy an electoral advantage for reelection, the election of women is limited. Yet, there is little causal evidence on this question. This article exploits regression discontinuity from close electoral races in Frenchmunicipalities to randomize the eligibility of incumbent mayors for reelection. Contrary to expectations, I show that when incumbents cannot run for reelection, female candidates are not more likely to be elected. I investigate the mechanisms and show that female candidates suffer from an electoral penalty only after a female incumbent. This effect is consistent with a backlash or stereotype threat effect penalizing women after a female incumbent.


Quentin is an assistant professor at University Paris II Panthéon-Assas, and a lecturer at the Department of Economics at the University of Essex. His research focuses on Public Economics, Political Economy, and Family Economics with an emphasis on Gender Issues.


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