Discussion Papers

No.904 More Equality for Women Does Mean Less War: Descriptive Representation, Legislative Votes, and International Conflict

by Kyosuke KIKUTA

October 2023


Although the pacifying effect of gender equality is said to be a “near-consensus” (Cohen and Karim 2022, 2), the causal mechanisms remain underspecified, and causal identification is weak. I address those shortcomings by providing the first causal evidence regarding the effects of women’s legislative representation on the state’s foreign military actions. I argue that women legislators affect foreign policies via legislative votes, and hence that the effect depends on whether military deployment requires legislative approval. I test the hypotheses by exploiting as-if random variation in mixed-gender close races and analyze data from 270,553 candidates in 253 legislative elections across 50 countries. The analysis indicates that women’s close victories reduced the state’s military actions but only with legislative veto power. The analysis of legislative votes also suggests that women legislators, especially those in government parties, deviate from party lines with other legislators and substantially reduced votes for military deployment.

Keywords: Women’s Representation, International Conflict, Legislature
JEL classification: F50, F51, J16

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