Do Congresswomen Outperform Congressmen?

That is a 2011 AFPS paper by Sarah F Anzia and Christopher R Berry, here is the abstract:

If voters are biased against female candidates, only the most talented, hardest working female candidates will succeed in the electoral process. Furthermore, if women perceive there to be sex discrimination in the electoral process, or if they underestimate their qualifications for office, then only the most qualified, politically ambitious females will emerge as candidates. We argue that when either or both forms of sex‐based selection are present, the women who are elected to office will perform better, on average, than their male counterparts. We test this central implication of our theory by studying the relative success of men and women in delivering federal spending to their districts and in sponsoring legislation. Analyzing changes within districts over time, we find that congresswomen secure roughly 9% more spending from federal discretionary programs than congressmen. Women also sponsor and cosponsor significantly more bills than their male colleagues.

I also would consider the alternative hypothesis that the women legislators are simply more conscientious and less wrapped up in themselves.  Nonetheless this result is one possible equilibrium relevant to the recent MR discussions on statistical discrimination.

Here is a paper showing female mayors have higher political skills,  This paper shows that women do better in a minority party than in a polarized majority party setting.

For the pointer I thank Michelangelo L.


Of course this assumes that increasing spending is "performing better."

I prefer legislative gridlock - much less damage.

And that tallies of slapping your name on a bill written by someone else's staff is a measure of 'performance'. Do the other papers have an equally dubious dependent variable? Would TC have called attention to either of these papers if they'd had the opposite result?

Folks, the paper is not gated. Yes.

Empirical Strategy and Data
As our primary measure of a legislator's performance, we look to her success in delivering federal program spending to her home district. The use of spending as an indicator of incumbent performance has strong empirical and theoretical foundations. Empirically, congressional scholars have long observed that a fundamental and explicit goal of members is to bring home federal dollars, and this observation has been a central theme in the classics on Congress (Fenno 1966, 1978; Ferejohn 1974; Fiorina 1981; Mayhew 1974). There is evidence that such efforts bolster an incumbent's reelection prospects (Alvarez and Saving 1997; Bickers and Stein 1996; Levitt and Snyder 1997; Sellers 1997; Stein and Bickers 1995). Moreover, members of Congress themselves appear to believe that they must serve their constituents through both casework and project work to build the reputation necessary for future electoral success (Cain, Ferejohn, and Fiorina 1987).

There is also a strong theoretical motivation for using district spending as an indicator of legislator performance. In particular, Ashworth (2005) presents a model in which reelection‐minded incumbents face a fundamental trade‐off between allocating their resources toward producing district‐specific benefits, such as federal program spending, or national public goods, such as legislation or bureaucratic oversight. Voters learn about the ability of incumbents by observing two signals, which are a function of the politician's effort on the two tasks, and reelect those politicians whom they believe are of high ability. A central result from Ashworth's model is that politicians have an incentive to bias their effort toward tasks that voters observe with less noise. This logic favors the dedication of effort to securing district‐specific projects, which are more informative signals of the incumbent's ability than are national public goods and hence receive greater weight when voters update their beliefs. In other words, it is the observability of program spending that makes it the most efficient pathway for politicians to signal their quality to constituents.

With these empirical and theoretical motivations, we adopt the not unfamiliar assumption that legislators are universally motivated to direct projects and funding to their districts (e.g., Evans 2004). Furthermore, while some program spending is formulaic, we assume that a representative's talent and effort play an important role in the logrolling, agenda setting, coalition building, and other deal‐making activities that characterize distributive politics. Of two legislators who come from districts with similar characteristics (or who represent the same district at different times), the one who succeeds in directing more spending to her district can be deemed to have performed better in the context of this fundamental political pursuit. Of course, we recognize that delivering federal benefits to the home district is only one aspect of a legislator's job. Therefore, we round out our analysis of legislative performance by examining legislators’ bill sponsorship and cosponsorship activity.

Is it possible the spending effect is just a function of the ideological gender divide? IE, more men are fiscal conservatives than women? For example, the House Freedom Caucus currently has one female member (out of 34), whereas California alone has nine women delegates who are part of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Presumably, there is somewhat less focus on federal spending in one's home district for members of the Freedom Caucus than for the PCP.

Or a more general reflection of sex differences, with women more concerned with distribution and men with production?

Exactly. From a libertarian perspective, unless the legislation that they sponsor is actually repealing other laws the title of this post should be “female legislators are even worse than our usual crop“.

My thoughts exactly. Why is spending more of other peoples' money considered "performing better?"

No kidding. This could be the worst thing Ty has ever posted -- and that's really saying something.

Sucking taxpayer money out of the rest of the USA to be squandered on useless projects in your home district is "performing well," and certainly not a sign of corruption, or simply being from a blue state when the Dem President wants to divvy up the booty from his trillion-dollar "stimulus package."

It's also a great sign that you are conscientious! And not wrapped up in yourself!

God in heaven. Ty Cowen, everybody! He leans libertarian!

Yet our current Republican president enjoys giving bailouts to red farm states hurt by his own tariffs.

The tariffs raise money. It seems like liberals favor every conceivable tax increase, except tariffs imposed by Donald Trump.

Yes and aren't female congress members more likely to be Democrats who favor larger government and more spending? Did they control for party?

That was also what I was thinking.

As all representatives are incentivized to secure funding for their district, this seems like a logical empirical measure for performance. The fact that the system incentivizes this behavior is a separate issue. The post isn't saying "you are likely to like congresswomen more than congressmen". It would be fun to brainstorm another way to directly compare representatives - but short of participation based measures what else could we use for an empirical comparison?

>all representatives are incentivized to secure funding for their district

Really, now? THAT is the goal of a US Rep?

Do you see the problem?

That's a side issue. They needed some way to compare performance. Don't hate the players hate the game.

>They needed some way to compare performance.

Right. That explains everything! They "needed" a way, and whatever "way" they chose is therefore inherently correct!

In other news, I needed a way to measure the accomplishments of every teenager in your home town. I chose "how many times they banged msgkings' Mom." Eleven boys (and two girls) were in contention, but the clear winner was Mark Thompson with fifteen.

A big congrats to Mark for being so conscientious!

Hmm, you went with the 'banging your mom' rebuttal. Kinda childish even for you. OK, I'll play along. Let's're like really gay.

OK now you go.

"Of course this assumes that increasing spending is "performing better.""

Paying people to work is bad, because people should work for free?

As in home schooled kids of uneducated parents are better than kids taught by teacher by tax and spend. And this is obviously widely supported by great pols like Trump who opposes high skill immigrants who are the product of costly government spending on teachers. Instead, economic migrants are the best because they never cost anyone to get education.


Likewise, not paying people to work building transportation infrastructure like railroads and extremely costly highways results in a far better economy, which is the reason Africa and South American economies are so much more productive than the US, Europe, China, Japan.

Likewise, not paying health care workers is far better. Folk medicine has made African health far better than the highly costly paying of health care workers in the US, EU, Canada, UK, Japan has.

Clearly no workers should ever be paid to work because paying workers cost too much, and kills jobs.

Repeal the 13th Amendment and reinstate slavery in accordance with the 14th Amendment, ie, enslave 5 times as many whites as blacks to create jobs that require no costly job killing spending.

'Here is a paper showing female mayors have higher political skills'

Higher than Guilani's? That cannot be possible, can it?

As for comparing a female lawyer to Guilani - well, who wants to point out how affirmative action really works in today's DC?

MBITRW, you'd be hard put to find a local politician in this country who was more accomplished than Rudolph Giuliani.

Michael Bloomberg? Wow that was so hard. Not!

In two terms, Giuliani presided over a 73% reduction in New York City's homicide rate. In three terms, Bloomberg extended that with another 45% reduction. Good performance by Bloomberg, but on a foundation already laid.

TC- "I also would consider the alternative hypothesis that the women legislators are simply more conscientious " - that's sexism? That women's DNA makes them more nurturing? What's next, will TC say men play better chess than women due to their better logical skills (testosterone)?

No, he won't, because he'd be embarrassed in the rathskellar in front of other faculty, especially when the lesbian shrew takes a break from talking about the sex toy display she saw at a recent conference to scream at him.


Everybody drink (in the rathskellar)!

I am a fan of Art's more imaginative characterizations lately.

Good catch, msgkings. Only Art would use that word and spell it that way.

Some evidence also suggests they make better doctors ( Related?

Different skillset required, though, ya know?

So much better that they're under-represented in all the most demanding specialties and commonly retire early.

Men know what they know. Women know what they learn.

Is that what you know, rayward?

I think all assumptions there are wrong. The women who succeed are probably the most power hungry, able liars. Exactly like men. So the "performance" you are measuring should be based on that.

The women who succeed are probably the most power hungry, able liars.

Kelly Ayotte got bounced out of office. And Hellary hasn't gotten what she most wanted.

I suspect if you investigated with some valid measures you'd discover that there are a comparatively larger crop of inveterate people-pleasers among women in politics. (Which is more of a problem in executive positions than legislatures).

We test this central implication of our theory by studying the relative success of men and women in delivering federal spending to their districts

That is corruption.

A much simpler test seems like it would be looking re-election. Are female politicians more or less likely to be re-elected than men in similar districts.

This would then let us look at state races which have both a much larger data set and fewer artifacts from partisanship, national events, and ideological skew.

I could be wrong, but my a priori gut reaction is that women tend to get re-elected more often (e.g. Collins, Murkowski, McKaskill) under adverse circumstances.

Since the advent of popular elections to the Senate, Collins' seat has been won by a Democrat precisely once. How would her campaigns be characterized as conducted in 'adverse circumstances'?

On the basis of the partisan voting index during her recent elections. More impressively, she won every county in spite of some significant shifts in voting behavior over that time. Further she tends not to have these things be even close.

Further she tends not to have these things be even close.

In the last 60 years or thereabouts, incumbent Senators in Maine have been re-elected in landslides about 85% of the time. There's nothing special about Collins in that regard. Nor is it surprising that she wins 'every county'. There are only 1.3 million people in Maine. It doesn't have a heterogeneous population and only one county has a city in it. The rest of the state is small town and rural.

Nearly all incumbents, regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity, win reelection. Recent research suggests, however, that the incumbency advantage is eroding. I don't think we have enough variation or cases to test your hypothesis, yet. But perhaps soon, especially if we see a new large crop of women members in Congress.

There are thousands of state legislators to work with. For even more sensitive data we can look at margin of victory. If women who are elected are better once in office then they should be re-elected by better margins than their male colleagues.

We could even look at a derivative test and see if incumbency advantage is higher for women (e.g. they face an initial hurdle but garner more votes per year in office).

Moving down to the state legislatures would give us many more data points and many more close comparisons.

Funny, cuz last time you brought up the subject, I thought of Margaret Thatcher, who would of course perform miserably on this metric.

British parliament operates differently from Congress. Effectiveness measures for one would not be appropriate for the other.

We find the same thing with online petitions. Women create fewer of them but have a much higher success rate

Clearly that's because the algorithms in internet sites are sexist.

That is not what the article says. It says that petitions favored by women are more successful, because women vote more.

If we take this reasoning seriously then we have much stronger evidence that there are too many minorities at most universities since the evidence is clear that at most above average institutions, most minorities except Southern and NE Asians underperform the average. Hence AA is objectively taking less qualified students and not just compensating for discrimination.

Check today's news, someone: is Lizzie Warren tone-deaf or just temporarily brain dead?

Her sympathies for immigrants of whatever legal status over murdered American citizens, while touching and oh so humane, looks wholly kooky and incommensurate to murder in whatever degree, distinctly peculiar even by Massachusetts standards, I have to suspect.

--then again: Massachusetts voters (women and men alike) do have a documented history of high tolerance for unjust deaths of occasional young women out of deference to political expediency, so maybe Lizzie Warren outperforms all outperformers in Congress.

OK. You are officially scum.

Nyet: I'm simply no resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or of the DC-to-Boston Corridor.

Warren's specific response to the specific question posed to her signals a readiness to discount legitimate concerns that Americans (Trump voters or no--I am not one myself, in case you yourself are confused) may have about crime and public safety, germane issues in the Tibbetts murder. I well appreciate her unwillingness to concede to Trump Administration framing, but her apparent willingness to privilege immigrants of whatever status over the lives of American citizens--even with no Trump media meddling--will NOT play well in large swaths of the country and will further illustrate the yawning divide between "Americans" and "America's cognitive elites".

Since my initial post, it looks clear to me now that Warren is pivoting to the issue being prominently addressed (and rhetorically framed) by NY socialist Congressional candidate Ocasio-Cortez. What this may mean for any Presidential ambition Warren nourishes remains to be seen.

Isn't all of this consistent with Gary Becker?

It's not impossible that in European history, queens turned in better average job performance than kings.

Let's see. Members of a discriminated-against group have to be better than members of the privileged group to achieve the same level of success.

Is that the point? I suppose it's worthwhile to verify that very commonplace observation, but let's not pretend it's a big revelation.

I don't care about skills, I care about outcomes.

Alternative title: "Female politicians responsible for more pork barrel spending than male politians".

But going by the rule that papers are only allowed to find differences between sexes if they show that the woman is superior, the original title is better if you want to get published.

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