Candidate Qualifications and Gender in U.S. Congressional Elections

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National Social Science Journal


Political Science


Women and men candidates for political office are equally likely to win their elections, yet women face numerous additional disadvantages. What explains this disconnect? We propose two related explanations. First, women candidates are likely to be, on average, better qualified than the men they oppose. Second, women candidates need to be better qualified than men to earn equivalent electoral results. To test our account, we create a unique measure of candidate qualifications that explicitly models the duration and level of office that each candidate has held during their entire political career. We examine all mixed-gender races for the U.S. House of Representatives during the 2004, 2006, and 2008 general elections, and uncover evidence that confirms our theoretical expectations.