Mobilizing the underrepresented: evidence from electoral institutions and women's political participation
This study examines the effect of electoral systems on the political mobilization of underrepresented groups, using as a natural experiment Norway's transition to proportional representation (PR) and its consequences for women's electoral participation. Theoretically, I argue that PR gives party elites greater incentives to mobilize women to vote, yet they need women's networks and organizations to succeed with such mobilizing efforts. Empirically, I study the effect of the imposed shift from plurality to PR in Norwegian municipalities. About half of the around 600 municipalities were already using PR, whereas the remaining municipalities were forced to replace plurality with PR before the 1919 election. Using a difference-in-differences design, I estimate that the move from plurality to PR increased women's share of the votes cast by about nine percentage points. This study suggests that reforms of electoral institutions can play a key role in promoting the electoral participation of politically marginalized groups.