Gender Differences in Legislator Responsiveness

Gender Differences in Legislator Responsiveness

By Danielle M. Thomsen, University of California, Irvine and Bailey K. SandersDuke University

A growing body of research shows that women legislators outperform their male counterparts in the legislative arena, but scholars have yet to examine whether this pattern emerges in non-policy aspects of representation. We conducted an audit study of 6,000 U.S. state legislators to analyze whether women outperform or underperform men on constituency service in light of the extra effort they spend on policy. We find that women are more likely to respond to constituent requests than men, even after accounting for their heightened level of policy activity. Female legislators are the most responsive in conservative districts, where women may see the barriers to their election as especially high. We then demonstrate that our findings are not a function of staff responsiveness, legislator ideology, or responsiveness to female constituents or gender issues. The results provide additional evidence that women perform better than their male counterparts across a range of representational activities.

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