Gender Quotas and the Quality of Politicians: USI awards Piera Bello

Piera Bello
Piera Bello

Institutional Communication Service

The USI Delegation for Equal Opportunities, chaired by the Pro-Rector Prof. Daniela Mondini, has awarded for the first time this year the Prize for scientific contributions on issues of equal opportunities and/or diversity. 

The jury (Dr. Arianna Carugati, Prof. Patricia Funk, Prof. Sara Greco, Cristina Largader, Prof. Carla Mazzarelli and Prof. Daniela Mondini) unanimously awarded the 2018 prize to Dr. Piera Bello for her PhD dissertation "Gender Quotas and the Quality of Politicians", co-authored by A. Baltrunaite, A. Casarico and P. Profeta, with the following motivation: "The research addresses the issue of under-representation of women in politics and shows, for the first time with a convincing empirical methodology, the positive effects of gender quotas on the quality of the political class; investigation with implications that go beyond the single object of study and to be replicated in other fields”.

The study analyses the effects of Law 81 introduced in Italy in 1993 and abolished in 1995, according to which no one gender could represent more than 2/3 of the total candidates on the municipal electoral lists. Since elections in Italy are held every 5 years, not all municipalities voted in the period 1993-1995 when the law was in force. This allowed to identify two groups (the treatment group represented by the municipalities that voted according to this law, and the control group that includes the rest of the municipalities) and to use a methodology 'difference in differences’ to estimate the difference in the average quality of local politicians elected in the two groups of municipalities.

The results of the analysis show that the introduction of gender quotas in Italy increased the average quality of elected politicians.  The effect is driven not only by the increase in the number of elected women, who are on average more educated than men, but also by the reduction in the number of low-educated elected men. In other words, the higher number of women elected replaced low-educated men. The study therefore shows that, contrary to common belief, quotas do not necessarily have anti-meritocratic effects.

The PhD thesis was written under the supervision of professors Vincenzo Galasso and Mario Padula, at the USI Institute of Economics (IdEP).