Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 10 > Issue 2

Gender Roles, Work-Life Balance, and Running for Office

Rachel Silbermann, Department of Political Science, Yale University, USA, rachel.silbermann@yale.edu
Suggested Citation
Rachel Silbermann (2015), "Gender Roles, Work-Life Balance, and Running for Office", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 10: No. 2, pp 123-153. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00014087

Publication Date: 24 Jun 2015
© 2015 R. Silbermann
Elections,  Legislatures,  Electoral behavior,  Electoral institutions,  Government,  Legislatures,  Political participation


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In this article:
1. Institutional and Cultural Explanations for the Gender Gap in Representation 
2. Theory and Predictions 
3. Travel Time to the Capital and Female Candidacies 
4. Placebo Test: Women in Local Government 
5. Student Political Career Interest Survey 
6. Survey Experiment 


Political scientists have studied why so few women run for office in the United States, but explanations concerning the challenge of balancing work and life have received little empirical support. I present two forms of data to show how expectations about work-life balance affect the supply of potential women politicians. The common thread in these analyses is that time spent traveling to and from work is particularly burdensome for those who spend time caring for children. Because women do a majority of the child care and housework, commuting is particularly burdensome to women. Analyzing a novel data set, I find that women are less likely to run for state legislative office in districts further from state capitals. I validate these results with an original survey experiment run on undergraduates in the midst of choosing their own careers. I find that female students weigh proximity to home twice as heavily as male students do in a hypothetical decision of whether to run for higher office. These results suggest that equal representation of women in government would require men and women to share household responsibilities more equally.