Friday, September 18, 2009

News Flash: Effective Women More Effective Than General Population

A recent study by Stanford and the U. of Chicago found that women lawmakers, on average, introduced more bills, attracted more cosponsors, and brought home 9% more bacon for their districts than their male counterparts.

Politico asks the obvious, though somewhat misleading, question

Are women more effective lawmakers than men?

Er, yes. No. Sort of.

Set aside the issue of whether more pork = better lawmaking. Cheers to Politico for getting around to the real lesson, though it could have come a little higher in the story:

Researchers say the small number of female members may have something to do with their effectiveness. Women who run and win are likely the most politically ambitious and talented of their pool, having potentially overcome hurdles including voter bias and self-doubt about their ability to win. Female candidates also tend to attract more challengers.
You don't have to go all Carol Gilligan on the data to explain it. This study doesn't really say anything about women being innately better or more cooperative or what have you. It's a selection effect: only the most extraordinarily competent women can survive the election process. If my lawnmower cuts down all the dandelions over four inches tall, it stands to reason the ones left will all be short.

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