Women MPs better at increasing economic growth rate, says study

Live Mint, July 30, 2019

Women lawmakers are better than their male colleagues at increasing the economic growth rate in their constituencies.

And that’s not all—they are also less corrupt, more motivated and better at completing infrastructure projects, shows a study by Sonia Bhalotra, professor of economics at the University of Essex.

Bhalotra revealed her findings at a Brookings India Development Seminar on ‘Women’s political participation and development’, which was attended by Aam Aadmi Party leader Atishi Marlena, Brookings India research director Shamika Ravi and Mudit Kapoor, Indian Statistical Institute among others.

The 17th Lok Sabha has the highest number of women, at 78 or 14% of the House. In 2014, there were 62 women MPs in the Lok Sabha. Her study maps constituency-level data from 1992 to 2012.

“Our findings show that women are more effective than men at raising growth in their constituencies. Ten per cent of women legislators have criminal records in comparison to 32% men,” Bhalotra said. “Women are 10 percentage points less likely to collect wealth while in office. To the extent that opportunities for corruption are greater in less developed countries, women may be especially effective relative to men,” she added.

According to Bhalotra, women policymakers are more effective at targeting women’s health and maternal mortality rate can be brought down by increasing women’s representation in Parliament through quotas.

In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, women’s reservation was a key issue. The general elections to the 542 parliamentary constituencies saw the Trinamool Congress and the Biju Janata Dal reserve 41% and 33%, respectively, for women candidates. The elections also saw more women vote than men.

“We need to understand the power structures and women’s legislation ability to navigate them. We also need to understand the demand side. Women constitute 50% of the voting population. It is not enough to have women legislators, we also need to understand what the electorate is voting for,” Marlena said.

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