Lab Events

Attacking Women or their Policies? Understanding Violence against Women in Politics

Massimo Pulejo

Attacking Women or their Policies? Understanding Violence against Women in Politics

by Massimo Pulejo (University of Milan)

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Surveys across countries indicate that women politicians are more often targets of violence than men. Why are women attacked more? We provide the first causal evidence that violence is driven by gender. Leveraging twelve years of data on attacks against Italian politicians, we show that marginally elected women mayors, similar in all respects to their men colleagues, are attacked three times more. We argue that violence could be a reaction to women’s presence in power or to their behavior in office. In line with the former hypothesis, we find that attacks concentrate where women’s political empowerment is highest. While there are no gender differences in policymaking and corruption, the gender gap in attacks emerges among low-quality and bad performing mayors, consistent with perpetrators applying double standards. Women mayors are less likely to seek re-election after an attack, showing that violence may foster the persistence of the political gender gap.


Massimo Pulejo is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Milan and the CLEAN Unit for the Economic Analysis of Crime. He received his PhD from New York University in 2023. His research examines the interactions between politicians and society from a political economy perspective. His work, generously funded by Fondazione Cariplo, NYU and Fondazione Roberto Franceschi, has been published - among others - at the Journal of Public Economics and the American Journal of Political Science.